French Gendarmes Save with Linux

Is your government or business looking to save on technology?  You might want to read this article from Ars Technica about France’s Gendarmerie Nationale, the country’s national police force.  They’ve been moving to open source software recently and estimate that switching to Ubuntu (a Linux distribution) and OpenOffice (from Windows and Microsoft Office) has “reduced its annual IT budget by 70 percent without having to reduce its capabilities.” And my favorite quote:

‘Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users,’ said Lt. Col. Guimard. ‘Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority.’

Granted, moving to Linux and open source won’t be quick or easy.  The Gendarmerie Nationale won’t be migrated over completely until 2015 (see the article for details).  But, they did the move the right way, starting small.  They moved to Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice from Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Office.

They also have more motives than just money:

Support for open standards is a key part of the Gendarmerie’s emerging IT policy. Standards-based technologies give it more freedom to choose which vendors it adopts and also makes it easier for the Gendarmerie to interoperate with other government networks. It has found that open source software is better at handling open standards. Linux has also simplified remote maintenance tasks.

Let’s count the advantages they’ve witnessed with open source: money (70% of annual IT budget or 50 million euros since 2004) from licenses and maintenance, interoperability (open standards and open data formats), and ease of maintenance.  Sounds good to me.