Open Source Leads Gendarme to Arrest Spending

Our experience with France's Gendarmerie may be limited to Pepé Le Pew cartoons, but that won't stop us from applauding their efforts at locking up proprietary software. That might just be because the fabled maréchaussée is trimming its IT spending by 70% this year — without losing so much as a byte — thanks to the wonders of Open Source software.

How did this near-miraculous trim-down come about? Apparently, somewhere around 2002, the service discovered that Open Source applications handle open standards — which are a big deal, to say the least, in Europe — better than their proprietary counterparts. When they moved to IMAP for email, it was Mozilla's Thunderbird client that found its way to Gendarmerie computers, followed by a roll-out of Firefox for web browsing. In 2004, one of the force's accountants, ever on the lookout for costs to cut, took exception to Microsoft requiring new licenses for the service's software and suggested that OpenOffice be deployed instead. In a brilliant stroke of irony, it was the response from Microsoft, not the accountant's proposal, that brought OpenOffice to the attention of the Gendarmerie's general manager, who ordered that it be installed on all of the force's 90,000 desktops.

Even bigger change was to come in 2007, when the maréchaussée opted to scrub Windows in favor of Ubuntu, after learning that Microsoft's Windows Vista would require additional training for staff with reduced benefits for the service. Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard, who presented a keynote on the Gendarmerie's success at an Open Source conference in Utrecht, said the biggest difference the service found between Windows XP and Ubuntu were its icons — and games. Said Guimard: "Games are not our priority."

The Gendarmerie estimates that it has saved some €50 million on software licensing since 2004. Until that time, the force purchased between 12,000 - 15,000 proprietary licenses per year — in 2005, that number was trimmed to a mind-blowing 27. That wasn't the end, though, by far, according to Guimard: "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." But eliminating software license fees isn't the only way the service is keeping francs in the frocks of French taxpayers.1 Lt. Colonel Guimard revealed that the cost of updates, as well, has been trimmed dramatically, with what was once a year-long process with techs traveling to the four corners of the earth to keep anti-virus and other applications up-to-date is now a two-week process that requires no travel at all!

It is encouraging to see government organizations picking up on the benefits of Open Source software, and indeed, the governments of Europe have been leading the charge on Open Source deployment. The Gendarmerie Nationale is by no means the only governmental group to recognize what Open Source can do — just months ago, Breaking News carried news of Germany's Bundesministerium des Innern (Ministry of the Interior) and their successful deployment of Linux desktops to German embassies and consulates worldwide. One can only hope that as these governments find greater and greater success with Open Source, that certain other governments — indeed all — will do likewise.

1 Yes, yes, we know, francs went out with the introduction of the euro — call it poetic license.

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Force Multiplier !!!

Anonymous's picture

Never Never Never under estimate the creative power of the human race. The Linux platform give the people a chance to show the most powerful creativity with software. Considering that it is Opensource, and that it is now becoming a standard tool in the hands of academics, it is just going to have the Force Multiplier effect. Truly. I dont think anything or anybody will be able to stop the opensource evolution/revolution anymore.

It is better for the proprietary companies to adopt the open source model and move to the next frontier of services. We have been "served" by Linux for the OS and Office productivity space.

Thank you Open Source Community (Linus) for doing what you are doing. You are Blessed.

From vista to Opensuse

fireprog's picture

I switched from vista to opensuse about a year ago and when I had my ati drivers up and running I've never used Windows again.
Most of my games worked (with PlayOnLinux) almost out of the box...
And I discovered some great opensource games like Sauerbraten and Frets on fire :D
A really satisfied linux user here...
And its nice to see that some governments also made the switch.

Palmetto Dunes Vacation Rentals

Palmetto Dunes Vacation Rentals's picture

Really a wonderful effort,keep it up.

Linux Rocks!

Aviendha's picture

I switched to Ubuntu about a year ago after failing to reinstall win2k on my rather proprietary NetVista because I had no driver for my ethernet card! Desperate, I threw in my newly acquired Ubuntu live-CD I had been saving for kingdom-come and presto, I was on the net in seconds with updates, upgrades--and any software I could need or even think of--just a click away. I dual-booted up until a month ago; I finally realised that whenever I am in trouble, I reach for Puppy as a rescue disk. So out the window has Windows gone, I am now FREE!

I am self-teaching myself as fast as I can, hoping my government will wake up and I can get a job, goddammit!

Boxing Supplies

Boxing Supplies's picture

Wow! That really a Article and it is Good posting.

free is the reason why..

shadowtroopers's picture

I've migrated from windows to linux for a year now,but still keep my xp on the other partition just in case i need to run certain prog that only windows can handle..seems to me most of the time i run my ubuntu most.

Me too

happytux's picture

I switched to Ubuntu at the release of Hardy going nearly a year now I have no problems at all I have found good enough alternatives to the applications I was using on Windows.

Mathcad --------- Sage

MS Office -------

Radiosoft Comstudy -------- SPLAT

Free at last, no more activation nonsense.