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Linux Software

French Parliament To Go Open Source 231

Posted by kdawson
from the desktops-and-all dept.
dhoyte writes, "Newsfactor.com reports that next June the French parliament will be switching from Microsoft to open source products such as Linux for desktops and servers and OpenOffice for day-to-day documents. They see it as a cost-cutting measure." The French have not settled on a Linux distribution yet. The article quotes an analyst voicing a note of caution: "'The evidence on the cost savings attributable to a switch to Linux has been mixed,' according to Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis at research group NPD. 'There has been some evidence that companies have to spend a good deal on training and support after you deploy...'"
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French Parliament To Go Open Source

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  • mandriva (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nocomment (239368) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:12PM (#17028150) Homepage Journal
    It'll probably Mandriva. Isn't that a French company anyway?

  • Hope it goes through (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thedarknite (1031380) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:17PM (#17028192) Homepage
    Although I am a little bit skeptical about news that states large organisations will be switching to open source. I recall similar a story in Australia, in which Telstra (IIRC) was going to switch to Linux until M$ offered them below normal pricing.
  • Re:mandriva (Score:1, Interesting)

    by for(x1,x!1,x++) (966751) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:22PM (#17028238)
    Hopefully more governments will follow suit and find that sometimes open source is better software, since it has been under the scriutny of the public.
  • Retraining. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyphercell (843398) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:24PM (#17028266) Homepage Journal
    I'm sick of hearing about retraining as being a reason not to change to Linux. The facts are that you're going to have to retrain everyone when you're forced to upgrade anyways. The big difference being that your Linux rollout will cost less, and provide future savings in the form of not having to upgrade and retrain for the next big change in an MS Office menu.
  • Cost of Training (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel.bcgreen@com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:30PM (#17028314) Homepage Journal
    This means that the best time to change from Microsoft to OO would be when changes in MS's products would require a heavy investment in training and support for a new product, in any event ... such as.... 2007 .

    Can anybody get some estimates of the cost of training and support for a recent majour MS Office update? I figure that that should be somewhere near the cost of a switch...

    FOI request anybody?

  • Re:mandriva (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated&ema,il> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:35PM (#17028362) Journal

    I think Mandriva will be the best choice for Linux transitioning to desktops. It's easy to install (probably the quickest and most straightforward installation next to Ubuntu), pretty simple to maintain, and is in my opinion the most user-friendly operating system for home and small-business users. I think of it as the Red Hat of Home Linux; it has fully dedicated support channels, premium content that is pretty nifty to have, and a very solid online community for those that cannot afford support. Last time I checked, the only other two mainstream Linux distributions that have all of those advantages are SuSE Linux (Novell) and Red Hat Linux.

    Every time I have used Linux, I land up turning to Mandriva or Fedora. Fedora is good for ultra bleeding edge stuff, while Mandriva is the Linux distribution that "Just Works" (save the casual Linux stuff, of course). I think that if they do not use the other two said distributions, Mandriva will be a very probably candidate. I would most certainly switch to this distribution if I had a project of this magnitude.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:44PM (#17028418)
    It seems to me that money spent on education tends to pay off all around especially when that education teaches people how to do things without being locked to a certain vendor. Education passes from one person to another whereas buying commercial software locks you to that vendor and is not allowed to pass from person to person. Even if the costs are identical the opensource solution empowers the user more than a commercial solution.

    Switching fom one platform to another entails pretty much the same 'training' costs. Going from Linux/OpenOffice to Windows/MSOffice would be just as weird to the users.
    And going in either direction, you still have to rebuild all the myriad apps/macros that people use and rely on to do their daily jobs.

    The main thing you save is licensing costs to MS. Assuredly not trivial, but a lot of the various open source vendors would charge a not insignificant $$ amount for support.

    The rough spots you gloss over are NOT trivial nor easily dismissed. Switching a large organization to a totally new platform is not something easily done.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:44PM (#17028420)
    "The facts are that you're going to have to retrain everyone when you're forced to upgrade anyways"

    You do realize that for most companies retraining doesn't mean "starting from scratch". How much preexisting knowledge and skills will cross-over to a Linux installation? Or will that be a "from scratch" issue?
  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:53PM (#17028484) Journal
    Telstra (IIRC) was going to switch to Linux until M$ offered them below normal pricing.

    I can confirm that, worked for them at the time. Had a CIO poached from Sun around then, too. Bill Gates flew in to talk to Ziggy Switkowski (then CEO) and after that it was all roses between them. My opinion at the time was that it was all just a ploy to beat down Microsoft's prices, sort of the corporate version of talking to a vendor with their competitor's coffee mug on your desk.

    Everything's negotiable, especially if you have 40,000 high-profile desktop licenses at stake.

  • by cyphercell (843398) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:04PM (#17028576) Homepage Journal
    It's hardly a "from scratch" situation for normal users. Normal users will adapt to the new system the quickest. They'll complain the most, but they will actually have the least difficulty. Actually, quite a bit of skills will transfer over nicely, people will complain, but the actual differences are moot. The hardest parts to switch will be in the server room where your database setup depends on functions unique to MS SQL server and other such problems. Then again these switches will be implemented by people who are expected to implement "from scratch" solutions. I do understand that these training costs are going to be higher than normal, but in the long run I think they are hardly viable arguments. What if for instance they had never switched over to computers because of the training costs?
  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:09PM (#17028612) Journal
    ...so like me you would have seen how much an utter disaster the attempted linux pilot was.

    Not that that would have stopped them. Every new project that Telstra attempts is a disaster, including the ones I've been involved in. You are quite right about the Sun-anti-Microsoft sentiment, of course. But Ziggy was not above using his execs as pawns to push his own agenda.

    Insider joke -- Telstra projects have finally run out of acronyms -- you can't open a new project unless you prefix the acronym with the number "9".

  • by thedarknite (1031380) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:15PM (#17028654) Homepage
    I agree that is likely not a cost saving ploy. However, I will maintain my skeptism until they begin rolling out a distribution. It is possible that they may end up maintaining the status quo, because it's even cheaper to not upgrade.

    At one of my previous jobs I had to install and setup a piece of specialised teaching software, and quite a number of large organisations were sitting on very old Windows installations.

    But, I like I said, I hope it goes through and doesn't get shot down by some vocal minority.
  • long term savings! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by radarsat1 (786772) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:16PM (#17028662) Homepage
    "'The evidence on the cost savings attributable to a switch to Linux has been mixed,' according to Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis at research group NPD. 'There has been some evidence that companies have to spend a good deal on training and support after you deploy...'"


    Oh my god am I tired of this argument... some people seem to have very little grasp over "long term" and "short term" savings.

    "It's different! It's hard to learn! Therefore it can't be good for us in the long run..."

    Some people have no vision.
  • by grcumb (781340) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:40PM (#17028850) Homepage Journal
    Parliement, [sic] not any kind of technical branch of the government. The people affected by this move will only surf the web, write reports and emails.

    I really doubt that. I don't have any experience with the French Parliament, but I did a lot of contracting with the Canadian Parliament for a few years, and I can tell you that they have a huge data management task. They were responsible for the timely publication of every single formal statement, document, report etc. from our politicians. And we all know that politicians do love to talk.

    One of the services we offered the was daily Hansard (a record of everything spoken in Parliament during a session), which was fielded by and indexed, cross-linked in both official languages and searchable by language, Party affiliation, region, riding and protocol (e.g. Question Period, Votes, etc.). Every morning by 07:00, we had everything spoken the day before prepped and readied for our customers. This data was merged into the existing infobase, creating a tremendously powerful research tool. And that was only one aspect of the kind of data management services they offered.

    I'm inclined to say that the French Parliament probably did a needs analysis and decided on FOSS for precisely the opposite reason you're suggesting. If my experience in Canada is any indication, their typical workstation needs would be quite advanced, and the ability to create special purpose data management tools in open, interchangeable formats for a reasonable cost would likely be the most compelling reasons to move to Linux.

    I say that from experience. It was the work I did with these guys (and other clients at the time) that convinced me to move away from Windows entirely. I haven't ever regretted that decision.

  • Re:mandriva (Score:4, Interesting)

    by foobsr (693224) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:28PM (#17029152) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully more governments will follow suit and find that sometimes open source is better software, since it has been under the scrutiny of the public.

    The whole EU will follow, as I hope. With regard to Germany, I am quite sure.

    CC.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @12:27AM (#17029504)
    Apps requiring MS SQL Server are mostly a non-issue. It just means you need to keep one windows box for that. Switching every MS SQL Server box to another "enterprisey" RDBMS like Oracle or DB2 would cost a LOT of money (besides admin/dba/developer training costs).

    Besides retraining, the main issues with such transitions are:
    -finding a replacement for exchange/outlook
    -active directory replacement
    -tons of office documents that use VBA (OOo might do this now?)
    -rewriting the entire intranet's content & apps (the old asp and newer asp.net ones) to something else (this would take several years of a medium team's time in our case, so cost a *LOT* of money!)
    -tons of windows-only custom apps they use (we had dozens of these), that could cost countless millions of $ to port (esentially rewrite from scratch) for another OS, or that would require everyone to use a terminal server - if they switched to linux at work, that's what everyone would be doing: using their workstation as a terminal server client and little more (almost everything we use is windows-only). This one is the main problem of most migrations. By itself, it would cost many times more than the price saved in windows licenses (nevermind the costs of buying very expensive terminal servers and such).

    Just deciding to switch over like that, without planning for any of this before (especially what to do for the last thing on my list) is stupid. Replacing MS Office alone (by OOo or whatever) would save a good amount, and it would still run all the old apps and everything just fine, and require basically no retraining of users or admins.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @12:29AM (#17029508)
    do tell me whats so complex about a linux desktop? using kde, it couldn't be more simple, and has modes of operation compatable with the classic windows interface.
  • by cafard (666342) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @01:41AM (#17029902) Journal
    Like all of the other large rollouts that get announced to great fanfare and then get abandoned to even greater press releases, white papers and case studies, Microsoft will go in and make em an offer they won't refuse.

    That's how i would feel about such an announcement in general. But it's now a couple years in France that the police switched to Open Office, and more recently, the tax office underwent the transition. There might be more administrations, but i don't know about them, having no insiders. The parliament switch looks like a continuation, not some brand new announcement. The french state has *already* started to switch to an open solution.
  • Re:mandriva (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:29AM (#17031158) Homepage
    I tend to throw out Fedora because of their habbit of including unstable code, SUSE because of Microsoft, and RedHat because of the cost. Mandriva sounds good, but Ubuntu and Debian are where I usually land. You can't beat the 19,000 pre-compiled packages maintained in the distro! For a government, I'd want Ubuntu over Debian, since it has to be easy for morons to use :-)

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