Paris report: Open-source move could be costly

A complete switch "would mean significant additional costs without improving the service provided," a French official says.

It won't be "all or nothing" and it won't be "everything, right away." That's the gist of the message coming out of Paris following the presentation of a report on a possible switch from Windows to open source.

A lot of smoke without fire seems to be the result of the in-camera meeting, where the results of the report, "Economic Study of a Migration to Open Source," were scheduled to be revealed to a handful of Parisian officials and the question of whether Paris will follow Munich was to be answered.

In a short statement, an assistant to Francois Dagnaud--the man in charge of the Paris executive's drive to modernize its IT--revealed that the total revolution hoped for by fans of the General Public License and OpenOffice and feared by Microsoft won't happen.

The assistant said: "The scenario of a near-term massive migration to open source, i.e., a complete and immediate change, appeared incompatible with the original state of the technology and systems, which the audit carried out in 2001 highlighted the age of."

He added: "Furthermore, it would mean significant additional costs without improving the service provided."

Officials wouldn't go into more detail on the costs in question, but Liberation, a French daily, gave the figure of $70.6 million (57 million euros) over five years, which it said was the cost of "changing Microsoft tools to open-source (ones) in the most ambitious scenario." The lion's share--nearly $12.4 million a year--would be spent on things like training staff how to use the new software.

Less ambitious scenarios were also presented in the report, with correspondingly less significant costs.

Francois Dagnaud concluded the statement, saying: "On the basis of the diagnostic elements established by the report, (Paris) will equip itself with the means to assure it is in control of its own development and will tend towards a still greater independence in regard to its suppliers.

"This strategic direction (will help) in view of moving away from dependence on the information technology of providers with de facto monopolies."

The Paris Council is intending to spread the use of IT equipment, modernize current systems and standardize them. While it does that, it will be prioritizing interoperability and compatibility between open-source and proprietary software, Dagnaud said.

Jerome Thorel ZDNet France reported from Paris.

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