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Minnesota Moving To Microsoft's Cloud 345

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-the-twins-with-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The State of Minnesota is apparently the first state to move into the cloud, agreeing on a deal to have their messaging and collaboration services delivered through Microsoft's Business Online Productivity Suite. The thing the article doesn't tell you in detail is that the agreement precludes the use of open source software, which could have saved the taxpayers millions of dollars. And once such a large organization goes Microsoft, it's difficult to go back. Isn't it interesting that these developments occur right before elections, as senior officials are trying to keep their jobs with a new incoming administration? What do you think, Slashdotters? Is this a good move for Minnesota? Or a conservative move that bucks the trend of saving money and encouraging open government and transparency by aligning philosophy and practice with at least the option of utilizing open source software?"
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Minnesota Moving To Microsoft's Cloud

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  • Summary:

    And once such a large organization goes Microsoft, it's difficult to go back.

    You need a large, thick, vertically and horizontally integrated businesses to handle large customers. But actually, unbeknownst to you, the average person has been going Microsoft for much larger, er, longer than you realize. Imagine the confusion that would ensue from switching to Linux - a Windows user who is used to tasks being performed for them on the bottom of their desktop may find themselves confused that the tasks are all on the top and they have to do much more work themselves.

    • by mangu (126918)

      a Windows user who is used to tasks being performed for them on the bottom of their desktop may find themselves confused that the tasks are all on the top and they have to do much more work themselves.

      I started using Linux in 1995 and have been using it almost exclusively since 1998.

      What confuses me every time I try to use Windows is how many tasks I have to do on the top of the desktop that Linux does for me automatically without any intervention from me.

      Linux just works, Windows is continuously asking me

      • What confuses me every time I try to use Windows is how many tasks I have to do on the top of the desktop that Linux does for me automatically without any intervention from me.

        Name a few, name three. Three examples from your claim of "how many tasks" should be easy enough, right?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mangu (126918)

          Three examples from your claim of "how many tasks" should be easy enough, right?

          1) Installing the system cleanly in one stretch without rebooting
          2) Having working hardware without resorting to CDs (so many notebooks don't have CD drives these days) or downloading drivers
          3) Playing media in less common formats, such as Matroska for instance, right from the start in a default installation
          4) Having a fully working usable system from the start, without having to hunt for applications after you install the opera

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Indeed, most people don't use things which really require Windows or even OSX to work. Email and web browsing really don't require Windows, and tend to work better when you're not.

        It's pretty much just the people that are stuck for one reason or another using a proprietary program which only supports Windows that are stuck. Although, not as much as in the past, given virtualization and Wine.
      • by DAldredge (2353)
        What does Linux do for you that Windows doesn't?
        • by jedidiah (1196)

          > What does Linux do for you that Windows doesn't?

                  It handles dependencies seamlessly and without the need to seek out dodgey
                  looking websites that would be prone to encourage the average consumer to
                  flee to an iPad.

  • by xtal (49134) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @06:46PM (#33773190)

    "lady, I never go into any place I can't get out of"

    The cloud is a great idea combined with standard formats for data (XML, whatever). IT overhead is a headache. Running servers is a pain.

    The data is the important thing, not how it's manipulated. This point needs to be beaten into people.

    If you're foolish enough to move into a third party cloud without standardized data formats.. or a way to get out..

    You'll wish being ambushed in a bar by spies was the worst thing that could happen :)

    • Parent wrote:

      The data is the important thing, not how it's manipulated. This point needs to be beaten into people.

      FTFA:

      To ensure the privacy of state government data, BPOS applications for the State of Minnesota will be housed in a dedicated Microsoft environment and delivered online

      Am I the only one who sees a basic incompatibility here?

      Also, the original poster is wrong - if you can't manipulate the data, it's pretty much useless except to historians. You might as well store it on microfiche and loc

  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @06:53PM (#33773234)

    The thing the article doesn't tell you in detail is that the agreement precludes the use of open source software, which could have saved the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Before I saddle up the war horses, can you provide a citation?

    This is a serious allegation; tying arrangements are dangerously prosecutable under antitrust laws, as Microsoft should remember.

    • by bussdriver (620565) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @08:57PM (#33773842)

      It does not surprise me one bit. Our Governor is a slime who only about 1/3 support and many of those only because of his party affiliation. (3rd parties upset results often here.) He's been doing the whole "no new taxes" thing for his whole term and its only ended up hurting us as well as word games where they actually raised taxes in other ways. Then we have our ROADS -- that bridge that fell down was ours -- which took a voter initiative to get the road funds used ON ROADS! (before the bridge fell, but not fast enough... the bridge fell while they were fixing it.) I wouldn't be surprised if MS bought his support since he wants to run for President or VP.

      I used to know a state IT guy - a unix guru. You can be assured that they have some great experts for intelligent planning who were not the deciding factor. I will have to reach him and see if they cut his job since he did do some email servers among the 100s he managed.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @08:58PM (#33773848)
      If you read the article, the agreement with Amazon says no such thing. The state had previously agreed to use MS for all their messaging needs.

      Source article from the summary [computerworld.com]

      Officials said the state did not seek bids, or requests for proposals, for a cloud computing system as Microsoft hosted suite was already a standard part of the earlier large licensing contract signed to consolidate the messaging systems.

  • by Hope Thelps (322083) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @06:55PM (#33773246)

    What do you think, Slashdotters? Is this a good move for Minnesota?

    Hmmmm... I've studied the data carefully and considered the pros and cons, taking account of the prevailing trends and allowing for all the variables. Based on my analysis I predict that the Slashdot consensus will be that going all Microsoft is not a good move.

    • by Jorl17 (1716772)
      You have extraordinary powers. Can you tell me lottery numbers?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hope Thelps (322083)

        You have extraordinary powers. Can you tell me lottery numbers?

        Easily. The numbers are:

              01
              05
              06
              24
              27

        Now all you have to do for a guaranteed win is to pick the right lottery and the right draw date.

  • I smell a lawsuit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by micromegas (536234)
    I'm from Duluth, MN and I say GACK! At one point, there was a state legislator who attempted to set into law, open document formats. Black suits showed up and ......bzzzzt! But really, does this mean I have to now own proprietary applications to view public documents? Thanks for so much you've left us Pawlenty.
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      Well, since the data will be in the cloud, perhaps the documents would be available on the web?

  • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @07:07PM (#33773324)
    A few years ago Minnesota was looking at mandating open standards for all government operations. Now they have taken a huge step towards vendor lock-in. This move will lock up Minnesota's history for decades to come. At the same time it will make the state's operations far less reliable.

    The article comments that Minnesota is switching over to something businesses have found great success in for years. As someone that has to use BPOS at work I must say the system is incredibly unreliable. We have had email simply disappear into a void. The service is slow. It frequently stops working for hours at a time. We have had other email delivered hours after it was sent.

    We had to disable rather important functionality in order to migrate over to BPOS as we are not allowed to customize anything. Now we have users doing things by hand which used to be automated.

    Before we switched over to BPOS I considered email as trustworthy and reliable as most utilities. My employer has structured the company with the assumption that email will be a reliable communications medium. With BPOS in place it is a burden on our organization.
    • There must be a similar system handling my SMS right now. Some stuff disappears into the void, and I've gotten stuff I thought was gone into the void that someone told me about after they sent it a month or so after the fact.

  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @07:22PM (#33773424) Journal

    I guess this news should have floored me but it doesn't. We have an entrenched administration that has the mantra "No new taxes" which has a nice sounding ring to it but the result has been less pretty (like a major interstate bridge that just decided to fall into the Mississippi river). I was drivng down the freeway today and the truck was bouncing around so badly I had to slow down (and I was not speeding).

    How does all this relate to moving to the Microsoft cloud? I am sure the state is getting a low cost price to get them in the door. Once hooked the price will go up and it will need to be paid and some other service will be asked to do more with less. Maybe the old lady in the nursing home will have to cut back on someting like drugs or catheters. Maybe a school will have to put off buying science textbooks (for the tenth year in a row).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by gagol (583737)
      Take a trip to Montreal, QC, Canada... you will find your roads to be pristine and mint conditions...
      • by znerk (1162519) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @02:16AM (#33775044)

        Take a trip to Montreal, QC, Canada... you will find your roads to be pristine and mint conditions...

        Or perhaps Louisiana, where it is easy to tell when you've crossed the line from another state into Louisiana, because where you were doing just fine driving the speed limit a few miles ago, now you need to drop 15 miles an hour from your velocity just to maintain control of your vehicle... Ah, Louisiana...

        This is the same place that doesn't seem to have an issue with spending billions to rebuild a city with an average of elevation of several feet below sea level after it flooded (surprise!), but then doesn't even acknowledge that there was a hurricane on the other side of the state that was, by all accounts, a worse storm that arguably caused more damage, if not (thankfully) more deaths... Rita was a stronger storm than Katrina, but no one seems to notice. There was Federal assistance available (in states on the other side of the country from where the "disaster" occurred) 5 years after the event, if you could prove you resided in an area affected by Katrina during that particular event. I don't mean just public assistance, I mean "free money" and job placement and housing assistance and all sorts of other things - handouts for having lived there at that time, regardless of whether you were actually affected by the storm. I don't mean to downplay the plight of those caught in the sixth-strongest storm in recorded history, but please read on.

        Most people don't even know that Rita happened - in the same state, in the same year, and actually the fourth-strongest storm in recorded history. There was discussion of changing the classification systems, which would make Rita a Category 6 Hurricane; Katrina would still have been a Category 5 Hurricane. There were mandatory evacuations; the police came to my house to make sure I had evacuated. Driving away from my home, it took nearly 10 hours to go 38 miles, due to traffic (and the police stopping everyone to tell them not to go east because all the shelters were already full - we had arrangements to stay with friends in that direction, but whatever). They closed the borders of my city and I was nearly arrested for coming back two weeks later, once the "all-clear" had been sounded - the issue being that I was on the road after dark and my truck was full of stuff (I was returning from Baton Rouge for the second time that day, after ascertaining that our pets would be safe coming back with us (3 hours in a vehicle containing 6 cats is *so* much fun)). They were still recommending people stay away, but part of my job was to make sure the local governments could operate - I was the technician for a company specializing in software solutions for municipalities, and so could claim I was part of the "relief efforts".

        Rita didn't drown a "cultural center", it just washed away entire towns. A governmental office I worked in had 3 feet of water in it, and not only is it on the second floor, it's easily an hour's drive from the coast. My neighbor had a tree that was easily ten feet in circumference blown through his house. People still have "blue roofs" (tarps instead of shingles) in some locations in south-west Louisiana.

        There was no federal assistance available for having survived Rita. No handouts, no free jobs, no relocation assistance, no compensation for having been forcibly removed from our homes. All of the things that Katrina victims got handed to them just for asking (or in some cases, without even asking), Rita victims asked for and were refused. Even the damage numbers were skewed, because somehow New Orleans properties are more valuable than the rest of the state. Maybe it's because not as many people died (due largely to the fact that we got out of the way, and our homes were above sea level, instead of below it).

        Katrina only got all the hype because people were too stupid to leave when given a week's notice, and it's a "cultural center", whatev

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      When the bill hits, he'll be out of the office. That's a win.
  • I read the article and Minnesota is moving their Email from several different platforms over to Exchange. Or in this case, exchange managed by MS, "aka the cloud". And I can see where this will save them money from having to support GroupWare, Lotus, and Exchange like they currently are and for large organizations, there isn't anything in the Opensource world that can compete with Exchange.

  • in less than 5 years i bet Minnesota declares bankruptcy and they are forced to change the name of the state to MSMinnesota then microsoft subsidizes the state government providing the state advertises and uses the MS logo on all state signs and official state documents & stationary.
  • It likely goes against laws of the state related to government procurements and agreements. Most states have such laws and policies in place for good reason.

    I think this agreement needs to be examined from as many perspectives as possible. It is clearly inappropriate for a vendor to say that a customer cannot do certain things as a condition for any given deal.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Saturday October 02, 2010 @10:40PM (#33774316) Homepage Journal

    Trouble Pawlenty, whose Indian name is Chief Tumbling Bridges, does not want to spend a penny, nor help anybody except the 157 million/billionnaires who he caters to. this is not a "big vote" for cloud computing, but he probably thinks by getting rid of infrastructure, he can get rid of more of the state government. it's foxes for the hen house.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:08AM (#33776270) Homepage Journal
    He is doing everything he can to position himself as a GOP presidential candidate. He likely did this because he knows that certain hard-core conservatives view free software as a stepping stone to socialism. Costs to the state are irrelevant if the decision improves his stance in the eyes of the GOP.

    He has already shown a willingness to crap all over the state constitution in the name of keeping up conservative appearances, so this really should surprise anyone.

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