CERN plans to replace Microsoft-based programs with an affordable open-source software

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Last month, CERN, one of the leading scientific research organizations planned to stop using Microsoft-based programs to look out for affordable open-source software. For the past 20 years, CERN has been using Microsoft products at a discounted “academic institution” rate. Things changed in March when its previous contract was ending and Microsoft revoked CERN’s academic status and as per a CERN’s blog post, under the new contract, licensing costs have been increased. 

Meanwhile, CERN is now focusing on its year-old project known as, Microsoft Alternatives project (MAlt) and plans to migrate to open-source software.

MAlt’s principles of engagement are: delivering the same service to every category of CERN personnel, avoiding vendor lock-in for decreasing risk and dependency, keeping hands-on data and addressing the common use-cases.

The official post reads, “The Microsoft Alternatives project (MAlt) started a year ago to mitigate anticipated software license fee increases. MAlt’s objective is to put us back in control using open software. It is now time to present more widely this project and to explain how it will shape our computing environment.”


This summer, MAlt will start with a pilot mail service for the IT department and volunteers. CERN plans to migrate all of its staff to the new mail service and also move the Skype for Business clients and analogue phones to a softphone pilot.

Microsoft agreed to increase CERN’s fees over a ten-year period so that the institution could adapt but it was still unsustainable as per CERN.

Emmanuel Ormancey, a CERN system analyst, wrote in a blog post, “Although CERN has negotiated a ramp-up profile over ten years to give the necessary time to adapt, such costs are not sustainable.”

Considering CERN’s collaborative nature and its wide community, a large number of licenses are required for delivering the services to everyone. The costs per product becomes unaffordable when traditional business models on a per-user basis are applied. It got unaffordable for CERN to go for commercial software licenses with a per-user fee structure. While many other public research institutions have previously been affected by this new licensing structure. 

While few users still think Microsoft was a better choice and are on the point that it would be difficult for CERN to migrate. A user commented on HackerNews, “Migrating away from Microsoft won’t be easy. Despite high licensing costs, Windows, AD and Exchange are still great solutions with millions of people familiar with them, good documentation and support.”

Few others are happy about CERN’s decision to support open source. Another user commented, “It is awesome to see how CERN is supporting open source. They have been long time users of our open core GitLab with 12,000 users https://about.gitlab.com/customers/cern/

To know more about this news, check out the official post.

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