Large Hadron Collider

What’s a good sign your software licensing fees may be too high? How about when the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and home of the Large Hadron Collider decides it can’t afford to pay them anymore?
That’s exactly what has happened at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known internationally as CERN, after Microsoft decided to revoke CERN’s status as an “academic institution.” The knock-on effect of that is the licensing fees CERN needs to pay to use Microsoft’s software line-up have increased “by more than a factor of ten.”
CERN anticipated this would happen a year ago and setup the Microsoft Alternative project (MAlt). It aims to “put us back in control” by embracing open software as an alternative to Microsoft’s proprietary products. It’s quite the change for CERN, which has been using Microsoft’s products for the last two decades.

The main aims of MAlt are not only to move to open software, but to deliver the same service CERN personnel are used to while avoiding vendor lock in and keeping full control of any data. To begin with, CERN is going to pilot a new email service and move away from Skype for Business to an alternative solution.
MAlt will be an interesting project to keep an eye on as CERN is clearly determined to see it through and replace “many products and services” with alternative open software solutions. Each change will require prototyping and pilot introductions before making a permanent switch, which is a process set to take a few years.
Ultimately, if successful, Microsoft’s decision to revoke CERN’s status as an academic institutions could backfire expensively as other institutions and companies may follow its example and carry out their own versions of MAlt.
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