Gendarmes saved €50m with open source software

Since 2004, the French police service has saved €50 million (£46 million) in IT expenditure by adopting open source software.

Speaking at an open source conference in the Netherlands, Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard explained that the savings came from reducing the number of Microsoft software licences it had to pay for.

Before 2004, when the gendarmerie began to adopt open source, it would typically buy between 12,000 and 15,000 licences a year. “Since July 2007, we have bought two hundred Microsoft licences,” Guimard said.

Unusually, the move to open source software was driven not by IT but by the finance department. "Microsoft was forcing us to buy new software licences,” recalled Guimard. “This annoyed our accountant, who tried OpenOffice.”

In 2007, the commitment to open source grew with the adoption of the desktop operating system Ubuntu Linux. “Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users,” said Guimard. “Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy.”

He added that the move has put the gendarmerie’s IT department in good stead to face forthcoming budgetary cuts. "This year the IT budget will be reduced by 70 per cent,” he said. “This will not affect our IT systems."

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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