decoration decoration

When you want to know more...
For layout only
Site Map
About Groklaw
Legal Research
ApplevSamsung p.2
Cast: Lawyers
Comes v. MS
Gordon v MS
IV v. Google
Legal Docs
MS Litigations
News Picks
Novell v. MS
Novell-MS Deal
OOXML Appeals
Quote Database
Red Hat v SCO
Salus Book
SCEA v Hotz
SCO Appeals
SCO Bankruptcy
SCO Financials
SCO Overview
SCO v Novell
Sean Daly
Software Patents
Switch to Linux
Unix Books
Your contributions keep Groklaw going.
To donate to Groklaw 2.0:

Groklaw Gear

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Contact PJ

Click here to email PJ. You won't find me on Facebook Donate Paypal

User Functions



Don't have an account yet? Sign up as a New User

No Legal Advice

The information on Groklaw is not intended to constitute legal advice. While Mark is a lawyer and he has asked other lawyers and law students to contribute articles, all of these articles are offered to help educate, not to provide specific legal advice. They are not your lawyers.

Here's Groklaw's comments policy.

What's New

No new stories

COMMENTS last 48 hrs
No new comments


hosted by ibiblio

On servers donated to ibiblio by AMD.

Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre
Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 11:02 AM EST

Jean-Marie Lapeyre is Ingénieur des télécommunications, Directeur technique du système d'information fiscal. In English, he says we can just say CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT department.

I had the opportunity to interview Lapeyre, whose decision to go with open source/open standards made news recently.

He gave a presentation at JBoss World Barcelona 2005, "Technological Choices for the Renovation of the French Tax Information System," which you can find here [PDF]. It provides still more evidence that the earth is not flat (translation: your TCO is not higher with FOSS than with Microsoft Windows).

The description of his presentation on the JBoss site goes like this:

The French Directorate-General of Taxes (DGI) was represented on JBoss World Barcelona's Customer Panel by DGI's CTO, Mr. J.M. Lapeyre. Through this presentation, J.M. Lapeyre gave an in-depth explanation of the existing environment within the DGI, its challenges, and the technology needed for Project Copernic: to modernize the whole of DGI's administration process while being able to offer new online services. Project Copernic is a full implementation of Service-Orientated Architecture (SOA). In this presentation, Jean-Marie Lapeyre describes how JBoss and Atos Origin were chosen; the reasons why, and the end results, including a saving of millions of dollars through use of JBoss Professional Open Source technology.

Millions of dollars saved. The presentation gives you an idea of how massive the projects are that Lapeyre is tasked with and what the software needed to be able to accomplish. France has 55 million citizens who can e-file their taxes and access their information, and 3 million corporations, and there are 80,000 tax agency employees needing to use the software. On page 6 of the presentation, you will find a list of reasons why Free and Open Source Software is a rational choice. At the top of the list is "Standards Compliance & flexibility of use." And you'll find a box that says, "Demonstrated (much) lower TCO (75 to 90%)".

On page 9, you'll see the process that resulted in a strong FOSS policy. On page 10, they relate that they issued a "neutral" request for proposals, setting forth their requirements (for example, on page 11 you'll see that one requirement was that every critical bug must be solved within 48 hours), and after receiving proposals, and evaluating them, here's the conclusion: "The evaluation demonstrated that open source rival or beat proprietary software on a technical level. More importantly, it proved that there are mature offers for cost-saving professional support and service." So in 2004, they signed with Atos Origin/JBoss. On page 11, it says they cut their "software costs (TCO) by 4 (for the JBoss part) to 10 (on a global scale)." I naturally was interested in talking with him about the decision to use FOSS.


Interview with Jean-Marie Lapeyre

PJ: Please can you describe what your agency does and how you came to decide to switch to FOSS?

LAPEYRE: First of all, the context: I am CTO of the French Fiscal Agency (since 2002). In France, our agency is in charge of all taxes due in the country, local or national.

We re-defined our IT policy in the summer 2000 (I was in charge of this as, then, Lead Architect), along with the launch of our 10-year-long program called Copernic, to rebuild completely our IT system (a billion euros investment). This policy was built around a strong architecture paradigm (today commonly known as SOA : Service Oriented Architecture) and a strict compliance with open standards.

It is important to note that choosing a product is not part of the policy. It's a tactical choice, knowing that we strongly want to be independent from vendors, as far as possible. We opted then to consider Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) as one of our options, every choice thus based on rational criteria (features, performance, sustainability, Total Cost of Ownership, etc.).

Concretely, we decided to try FOSS in late 2000 by deploying our income tax management system on GNU/Linux machines (without changing the application itself, client-server based on Oracle*Forms). We installed about 1000 servers (850 in production to which must be added, test, development, spare, etc.) which are operational since February 2001. This can explain it (in French).

This experience was very positive: this infrastructure became, by far, our cheapest one. We haven't had any failure of the system since the beginning.

We had several other (very good) experiences with FOSS from 2001 to 2004. In particular, I used to underline the choice of our J2EE server implementation: after an open Request For Proposals, we chose JBoss server along with professional support and service (contract signed in June 2004). You can read the story of this choice, and more details of the things described above, on the slides I used for the last JBoss World Conference (last October).

The important thing is that, since June 2004, strengthened by our very positive experiments, we chose to change a bit our policy and commit to FOSS.

This means that for every software choice we have to make, if an available FOSS piece of software answers our needs and meets the necessary requirements (say, maturity, ability to be industrialized, strength of the community, etc.), then we are inclined to use it. And because we develop nearly every business software we use (there is no real market for managing French taxes :-) , it leads to make FOSS the main part of our software asset, including the critical parts of it (besides those for which we have made another choice beforehand).

You can understand that we change our products when there is an opportunity to do it (very often along with a business evolution). We have a stock/flow approach, without any "forced walk".

Along with this change, we have just signed a new contract for support and service around every piece of FOSS we use - around 170 - (it is not advertised for the moment, we are preparing our press releases). I think it is one of the biggest contract of this type in the world (if not the biggest).

As far as workstations are concerned, we have just begun to deploy some parts of FOSS on it (or in the infrastructure around). For example, we are now deploying SAMBA for file and print serving.

On our 80,000 client machines themselves, because we have to change the version of our office software (Office 97), we are finishing the overall study with a strong option for OOo, but because the stakes are not only technical here (thinking of the users), our preference for FOSS must be consolidated with a global evaluation of the impacts.

I hope that you are now convinced that our FOSS-friendly policy is not just "vaporware".

PJ: Is there a copy of the policy online somewhere?

LAPEYRE: Not really. We are not used to publishing this kind of document (cultural habit). We just attach all the required documents in our RFPs, and we talk about it in conferences and in interviews. I think it is largely summed-up in the JBoss slides. There is a longer description, in French, in this document. An English translation is in progress.

PJ: What is the plan for the future?

LAPEYRE: It's a methodology, not a plan. It's a strategic choice which leads progressively to the deployment of FOSS in every part of our IT system.

PJ: So, you have FOSS now running in how many areas?

LAPEYRE: Our "new" servers are all GNU/Linux based (databases - finally a small amount of servers, both considering by number or by processing power - run on a proprietary UNIX - we will probably switch to GNU/Linux next year). Now, a bit less than a 4000 servers infrastructure runs on GNU/Linux with a FOSS framework above it (Apache, JBoss...).

Our system monitoring is FOSS-based (Nagios, MRTG). Our security services are all (except some dying legacy ones) FOSS-based. Our development platform is quite entirely FOSS-based (on Eclipse).

PJ: Can you tell us why you decided on FOSS? What advantages do you find?

LAPEYRE: FOSS helps us to achieve our strategic goals: control of our IT system, long-term sustainability, and independence from vendors.

As a side effect, it allows us to cut our software costs We are trying to evaluate the software TCO implied by our policy. It's probably a bit more than an overall factor of 10 (speaking of strict software costs: licensing, support, corrective and basic evolutive maintainance). It's less for critical pieces of software like application servers (around 4), much more for others (see below).

PJ: As far as office software is concerned, what do you need it to do?

LAPEYRE: We do not use a lot of advanced features in office software. Our employees mainly use our specialized business applications. So we have only quite basic needs.

One benefit we have already used (on the previous version) is the standard file format which eases the connection with business applications and allows us to be consistent with our policy, even for this type of computing use. But it is not the definitive argument here.

PJ: Have you calculated how much money a migration to OpenOffice would cost? How much it might save long-term?

LAPEYRE: It will cost probably 3 to 10 man years to adapt the business applications, and cost some (a bit less than 3) tens of millions of euros less than switching to a recent version of Microsoft office (licensing costs and training mainly). This last one, once every, say, 5 years.

PJ: Whose idea was it to consider FOSS?


PJ: And how did you come to know about FOSS?

LAPEYRE: When in college, I discovered it and quickly became convinced that behind this philosophy, there is a strong model for mutualization of software costs (design, development and, more important, long-term maintainance), much better than the proprietary model. In fact, it is a realization of knowledge propagation and sharing (better to exchange than to hide).

PJ: What operating system do you use at home, if I may ask? If GNU/Linux, care to tell us which flavor?

LAPEYRE: Well I think you have guessed well: single boot GNU/Linux machines. Gentoo on my main computer, Mandrake (not switched to Mandriva flavor yet) on my laptop.

PJ: Finally, thinking of the OpenDocument Format issue in Massachusetts, does the French government have a specific policy favoring open standards?

LAPEYRE: As I said, we (Tax Agency) have a strong policy in favor of open standards. It is a government-wide recommendation but can not be considered as a policy because the different agencies are not bound to it; it is just a general trend.

PJ: Some say that governments should care more about the fact that the majority of people use Windows already instead of stressing completely open standards. If you were in a conversation with someone in a government agency other than your own and this came up, how would you respond? Why are open standards particularly important/beneficial to governmental entities?

LAPEYRE: Considering the specific nature of the missions involved, it is probably important to be able to be as independent as possible and try to make sustainable choices in the long run. And because IT systems are now the heart and the nerves of our organizations, the principle must apply to it. I hope we do agree on that.

But on the other hand, we know it is dangerous and inefficient to follow this principle too blindly and let us specify and develop highly specific, home-made systems. This leads to a failure every big organization has probably already lived.

So, we are stretched between the principle and pragmatic necessity, which, if applied without a clear understanding of the rules of this industry, can lead to concretely abandoning home keys to actors not necessarily sharing the same goals.

I think the balance is to rely on open standards; it is the only one I can imagine.

This path is not more or less difficult to take (this is our operational experience), comparing to the one considering that *today* a majority of users have one particular tool. But clearly it is the only one which is sustainable. This is emphasized by the very short cycles of our industry: the changes are sometimes very quick here (think about IBM thirty years ago, and Apple twenty years ago, and Netscape ten years ago, and, well, IE and Firefox today).

Hopefully, FOSS is a good way to run this path. But there is never any guarantee. A policy must live and be served every day.


Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre | 131 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
O.T. here
Authored by: kattemann on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 11:12 AM EST
Make links clickable, see red text below Post Mode.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Here
Authored by: ThrPilgrim on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 11:13 AM EST
In case our French ain't up to standard :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre
Authored by: ThrPilgrim on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 11:37 AM EST
I've just emailed this story to my MP asking why the French can get IT projects
in on time and we Brits keep getting EDS.

I wounder what his reply will be?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre
Authored by: AntiFUD on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 11:42 AM EST

What a joy to read!

No mention of software patents and no mention of fear of attack by the likes of
SCOG - one has to believe that the French would have no problem claiming (and
sustaining) national sovereignty over any and all aspects of their tax
collection systems.

Furthermore, this seems like a great boost for local support providers and at
the very most other European (or at least European-based) developers and support
service providers (vis-a-vis software such as Eclipse).

Hopefully Monsieur Lapeyre will not be subjected to a witch hunt by the Boston

IANAL - But IAAAMotFSF(not related to Daniel Wallace) - Free to Fight FUD

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 12:02 PM EST

I have to say that I am proud of Monsieur J.-M. Lapeyre. Thanks a lot, Pamela,
for this interview.

Filippo Rusconi,
an italian/french bi-national tax-payer in France :-)
<a href="">GNU polyxmass</a>

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dare we say....... ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 12:21 PM EST
In your face, Steve Ballmer.
In your face, Bill Gates.
In your face, Darl.
In your face, old FUD.
Welcome, bright and shiny future.

Amazing how government bodies (even some in US) are becoming more enterprizing
and cost-conscious, while S&P 500 companies are lagging behind. It used to
be the other way around.

If only this kind of thought would propagate into the health-care sector, we'd
have universal health care in no time. I'm talking about competition and
application of capitalism according to accepted theories on economy.
Instead of natural, ineffective monopolies (HMOS, pharma's) flying a false free
competition flag. It is amazing that a country (US) that spends more per capita
on health care than than any other manages to provide no healthcare to a third
of the population.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nice way of putting it..
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 02:05 PM EST

"mutualization of software costs".

Nice expression I could use in business circles.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Younger Generation.
Authored by: pogson on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 03:08 PM EST
PJ: And how did you come to know about FOSS?
LAPEYRE: When in college, I discovered it and quickly became convinced that behind this philosophy, there is a strong model for mutualization of software costs (design, development and, more important, long-term maintainance), much better than the proprietary model. In fact, it is a realization of knowledge propagation and sharing (better to exchange than to hide).
I am 55 and I have seen a lot of people in my generation clinging to the status quo. This gentleman seems to be of a newer generation. Perhaps that is our hope. In the long run, young people seem to accept, demand, and welcome change better than some of my peers. I do not want change for the sake of change, but I want computers to reach their full potential per dollar. Security holes, Microsoftian taxes, complexity and centralized planning all are unnecessary impediments to proper exploitation of computers by the world.

--- , my homepage, an eclectic survey of topics: berries, mushrooms, teaching in N. Canada, Linux, firearms and hunting...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Brilliant progress at last
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 04:58 PM EST

Thank you for this interview, and the hope that one day income tax will be administered this way throughout Europe.

I am a UK resident but earn a little money in France. Each year I am double taxed by both the French and UK tax man. At the end of the tax year, April, I have to fill in a quadruplicate form to claim back some of the tax. You have to put your exact location when filling in the form; and it involves a lot of conversion from Euros to Pounds and back. About 3 or 4 years later I get my refund.

It would be great if I could do it electronically, and the French and British systems could cross check; and give me my money back much sooner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Lower TCO on Windows? Check **THIS** out
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 22 2006 @ 09:23 PM EST,+FBI+says/2100-7349_3-6028

This is from the US FBI. Ya know. The DoJ arm that puts Microsoft above the
law (maybe so they can help with domestic spying, perchance?) These friends of
Bill Gates probably understated the number to protect their jobs too.

Security costs alone of $67.2 BILLION, virtually all due to Windows flaws? Now
THAT is a serious blow to any perverted TCO claims by Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 23 2006 @ 12:31 AM EST
Very good interview PJ. Keep this up and The New York Times or CNN will steal
you away from Groklaw!

[ Reply to This | # ]

IT strategy?
Authored by: Saturn on Monday, January 23 2006 @ 09:46 AM EST
"It is important to note that choosing a product is not part of the policy. It's a tactical choice, knowing that we strongly want to be independent from vendors, as far as possible...FOSS helps us to achieve our strategic goals: control of our IT system, long-term sustainability, and independence from vendors."
These two statements stand out to me. I work as an IT consultant, and get regularly told that a client has a strategic commitment to Oracle or Microsoft or whatever else.

I've always felt that a technology choice is a tactical decision in pursuit of a commercial strategy... With the single exception of Info Tech companies, Info Tech is never a strategic consideration in itself - its a means to an end.

I couldn't agree more with his differentiation between tactical and strategic planning.

My own opinion, and very humble one too.
Which is probably why I'm not a lawyer.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • IT strategy? - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 23 2006 @ 04:54 PM EST
Interview with the CTO of the French Tax Agency, IT Dept., Jean-Marie Lapeyre
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 23 2006 @ 10:46 AM EST
Okay now this guy should expect some public hearings now
and be told to run all decisions through a panel of
selected vendors selected by the politicians who are
sponsored by these vendors. Then he should expect a
hearing about how he has neglected the needs of the
handicapped and then be written up in the local newspaper
about how he spent money frivolously on his trips and
overall spending.

oh this is about France - oops - wrong country - nevermind

[ Reply to This | # ]

Woohoo, Eclipse!
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 24 2006 @ 08:57 PM EST
I've been using Eclipse every day for several years for Java development, and it's great.

(I know a bunch of the people who wrote it, so I'm biased :)

Any Java developers who haven't tried it, you should definitely give it a try!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Groklaw © Copyright 2003-2013 Pamela Jones.
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.
Comments are owned by the individual posters.

PJ's articles are licensed under a Creative Commons License. ( Details )