French police save millions with open source

France's police, the Gendarmerie, have stated this year's IT budget will be reduced by 70 per cent, because of its move to open source. Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard says the migration has saved 50 million Euros and it will not affect its IT systems.

The Lieutenant-Colonel was one of the keynote speakers at an annual conference in the Netherlands, organised by NOiV. He gave a presentation on the move from Microsoft to Ubuntu.

NOiV is the Dutch national resource centre on open source and open standards.

Most of these savings come down to the elimination of software licences in the move to open source. Up until 2004 the Gendarmerie acquired 12,000 to 15,000 licences annually. In 2005 it bought just 27.

"Since July 2007 we have bought two hundred Microsoft licences. If one of us wants a new PC, it comes with Ubuntu. This encourages our users to migrate." Guimard estimates that the Gendarmerie, since 2004 has saved 50 million euro on licences for standard office applications, hardware and maintenance.

The decision in 2004 to move to open source, was raised by one of the Gendarmerie's accountants. "Microsoft was forcing us to buy new software licences. This annoyed our accountant, who tried OpenOffice."

According to Guimard the proprietary software maker then started lobbying the Gendarmerie, which is how the general manager found out about the experiments. "When he saw OpenOffice worked just as well and was available for free, it was he that decided it should be installed on all 90.000 desktops."

Guimard says the Gendarmerie found that open source applications usually are better at handling open standards than proprietary software. Moving to centralised Imap servers for email, lead the organisation to deploy Mozilla Thunderbird on the desktops.

In 2007 the Gendarmerie decided to replace even the desktop operating system. Guimard: "Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users. Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority."

According to Guimard the move to open source has also helped to reduce maintenance costs and eliminates some travelling costs. Keeping GNU/Linux desktops up to date is much easier. "Previously, one of us would be travelling all year just to install a new version of some anti virus application on the desktops in the Gendarmerie's outposts on the islands in French Polynesia. A similar operation now is finished within two weeks and does not require travelling."

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