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A €2 million, three to four year framework contract for providing open source IT support was awarded to open source specialist Alter Way, system integrator Capgemini and Java specialist Zenika by Disic, the central IT department for the French government. The three will provide support for at least 350 open source tools used by 15 of the 22 ministries in France.
The call for tender had been published in November last year. Alter Way made public this week that it was one of the three companies that had won the bid. "It is an exemplary contract involving the Ministry of Interior and the Department of Procurement. We will be supporting free software in the Court of Auditors and most of the ministries."
Not participating in this support contract is the Ministry of Economy, Finances and Industry. This Ministry has issued a separate open source software support contract, not yet awarded.
The French IT news sites Silicon and LeMagIT spoke to one of Alter Way's founders, Véronique Toner, at the trade fair Solutions Linux / Open Source 2012, this week.
The government's central IT department (Disic, Direction Interministérielle des Systèmes d'Information et de Communication de l'État) is asking the three firms to ensure that improvements they make to the open source code are given back to the upstream developers, Toner said. The current contract covers only maintenance and bug fixing. A second call for tender, not yet published, will cover the development of new features and the providing of training.
LeMagIT writes that only one of the aims of the contract is to reduce costs. The providing of open source services should also lead to an greater uptake of open source software within the ministries. Eight years ago a similar support contract failed, LeMagIt writes. This resulted in project managers at the ministries falling back on expensive proprietary software solutions.
Toner told the two IT news sites that the support contract covers the whole spectrum of open source applications. The three firms will support the use of Linux distributions, including Debian, Ubuntu and CentOS, office applications OpenOffice and LibreOffice and enterprise resource management tools GLPI and OpenERP. The contract also calls for support for the use of network management tools such as Cacti and Nagios, content management systems Drupal and SPIP, programming tools like Mantis, PHP and Python and desktop applications such as Firefox and Thunderbird.
LeMagIt writes that the contract specifies rate discounts when two or more ministries ask support for the same open source application. This starts with a discount of 30 % for two ministries and runs up to 60 % when five or more are involved. Support requests will be pooled, to avoid duplicates of bug fixes.