Reflecting the savings possible by adopting open source software, France's Gendarmerie Nationale, the national police force, says that it has saved millions of dollars by migrating to various open source solutions. As part of its pilot phase, the organization has already migrated to Ubuntu Linux on some 5,000 workstations. Plans are in place to switch a total of 15,000 workstations to Linux before the year is up, and all of its computers by 2015.
With some 90,000 workstations, the Gendermerie Nationale is hardly a small business. However, we can certainly study and learn from its implementation.
Indeed, a cursory examination of the transition reveals that the savings come from the following areas:
- Productivity software: From Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org
- E-mail client: Using Thunderbird now, I presumed they switched from a proprietary client like Microsoft Outlook
- Operating system: From Windows to Linux
Before we plunge straight into the deep end, I must caution that Linux in itself is not the magic bullet for every organization's software licensing woes. Considering that most computer vendors do not offer discounts for selling computers not already bundled with Microsoft's Windows operating system, there might well be zero savings from making such a jarring transition. Ultimately, I believe most SMBs lack the resources to properly evaluate their existing applications and peripherals for Linux compatibility for such a significant switch.
On the other hand, SMBs will find that switching their office productivity software or e-mail clients to open source ones could generate significant savings with far less resistance from users. This is because popular applications such as Microsoft Office or Microsoft Outlook typically cost a premium. And that is especially true for smaller organizations without the numbers to qualify for cheaper pricing tiers.
In such situations, it makes perfect sense for SMBs to opt for open source solutions. What about support, you ask. My rejoinder: When was the last time you asked Microsoft for support for your Microsoft Office suite anyway?
Be sure to read my earlier post about the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0, too.