Moscow to replace Microsoft software with Russian alternatives

Posted Sep 28, 2016 by James Walker
The city of Moscow has announced it will replace Microsoft software with programs made within Russia. The decision was made after a call from President Vladimir Putin to reduce the country's dependency on foreign software, a potential security risk.
Microsoft branch office.
Microsoft branch office.
Elekes Andor
Moscow will be replacing components of Microsoft's server software with an email system developed by state-run carrier Rostelecom APC, according to a Bloomberg report. Initially, Microsoft's products will be removed from 6,000 computers. There is also the prospect of expanding the program to up to 600,000 computers and servers.
Only Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Outlook are being replaced. Outlook is Microsoft's industry-leading email client. Exchange Server allows companies to host their own email servers, storing data and enabling client devices to connect from anywhere. Moscow is said to be keen to stop using Exchange over fears the U.S. could be able to access data stored on the servers.
There are also concerns that the U.S. could be able to shut down the services remotely, potentially isolating government departments. After the 2014 annexation of Crimea, U.S. firms suspended paid services in the country. Russia is understood to be keen to avoid anything similar happening in the future. To safeguard its systems, it needs to take full control and build its own software.
If the Outlook replacement goes well, says Artem Yermolaec, head of Moscow's information technology, the city may consider replacing more Microsoft products . That would include productivity package Microsoft Office and potentially the Windows operating system.
Moscow isn't the first city to express a desire to reduce its dependence on Microsoft products. In 2004, the German city of Munich replaced all its Windows systems with the open-source Linux. However, last year the city announced it wants to return to Microsoft. Senior IT members described Linux as "cumbersome" and "limited," advising Windows be reinstated with Microsoft's Office 365 cloud service.
If Moscow goes ahead with its plan, it's less likely to consider a return to Microsoft products in the future. Whereas Munich switched to Linux primarily to save €10m of public money, Moscow's reasons are as political as they are economical. Russia is becoming increasingly suspicious of the Western software its computers run. China has routinely shared the same views.
To help encourage the adoption of Russian software, Putin's Internet czar German Limenko recently outlined a plan to raise taxes on U.S. technology companies operating in the country. He wants to help Russian firms including search engine Yandex and email provider gain a greater presence within the nation, ensuring taxpayers' money stays within Russia. Microsoft has not commented on Russia's announcement.