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France Telecom goes Debian 36

aftersci writes "Partially privatized French TelCo FranceTelecom contracted with free-software consultants Alcove to revamp their infrastructure. Debian GNU/Linux, Apache, PostrgreSQL, Perl, and PHP will be used, though they apparently won't be throwing out all their Windows clients. Sorry, no France-Telecom link yet. " And note that the article is in *gasp* French. So you might want to use Babelfish for an awkward and humorous translation.
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France Telecom goes Debian

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  • Hey, at least the French are leading the way in calling linux "GNU/Linux" now. Mr. Emacs finally getting his props.

    Here's the babelfish translation, so we don't /. the poor server to death.

    France Telecom Paris: Intranet under Linux.
    Alcove could obtain this market as much by the quality of its technical response that by a very professional offer of services. Through this service, France Telecom Paris becomes the 500ème customer of Alcove.

    Project PHENIX (Platform of Standardized HEbergement of the Intranet under linuX) of France Telecom Paris: Each unit and the state major of France Telecom Paris (6300 people on the whole) develops their own sites Intranet, and of the possible interfaces with data bases. These sites are lodged today on heterogeneous servers (Windows NT and Linux) and mainly developed with the FrontPage software. The dynamic pages or those with access to the data bases are created using ASP/VBSript or Perl.

    France Telecom Paris wishes to make migrate the whole of these sites Intranet towards a Linux platform, supporting all the existing functionalities or to come. The objective is to improve comfort of the users, to allow a better evolutionarity, and to ensure a simplified exploitation and an administration induced by the recognized stability of the system.

    The technical proposal of Alcove: For the Linux platform, the distribution Debian GNU/Linux was retained. The Web server turns under Apache with support of Perl, PHP (more flexible and more powerful than its functional equivalent ASP/VBScript), and of the FrontPage extensions. The DBMS selected is PostgreSQL (software free in conformity with standard SQL 92), whose driver ODBC allows a transparent use of the DBMS from stations customers under Windows. For the updates of documents, Alcôve chose to implement software ftp ProFTPD, at the same time powerful and made safe.

    An offer of services complete and very professional: The contract signed by France Telecom Paris and Alcôve is an annual engagement. **time-out** it integrate the follow-up of whole of project by a officer de project, consult in Data processing Free, of day of consulting, of intervention on site for the installation en place and the configuration of server, of day of formation and a contract of technical aid technique.

    For Small Lucien, chairman of Alcove: " This very beautiful project at France Telecom as well as the strategic partnership tied lately with SGI confirm our place of leader of the services in Free Data processing. Our positioning, with the interface of the community of the free developers of software and the world of the company, enables us to fully satisfy waitings of our customers large accounts and our partners. It is besides to meet more precisely still their needs than we currently work with the proposal for contracts of assistance 24/7. "


  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Thursday September 16, 1999 @07:26AM (#1678340)
    Aftersci writes ...though they apparently won't be throwing out all their Windows clients as if this is a really bad thing. Au contraire, this is a very good thing -- it shows that there is a carefully considered infrastructure decision being made here; one that focuses on the best use of technology where it's critical, and the best use of already-purchased infrastructure when it's in hand.

    Sure, I'd like to see the France Telecom executives get so gung-ho about free/oss software that they all rush out and get tattoos of RMS' visage on their foreheads and name their children Linus, but it's much more important in the real world for them to make *visible*, careful, considered, long-term-view decisions. When they do so, it sets an example for the rest of the business world to follow (and takes people one step closer to realizing that Linux is generally a safe infrastructure choice). This is the sort of progress that will inspire PHBs in smaller arenas to say "Wow. Telcos are using Linux on the back end. Maybe I won't ignore my sysadmin the next time he starts talking about upgrading from NT to that Linux/SAMBA thing."
  • by Speef ( 48687 ) on Thursday September 16, 1999 @07:55AM (#1678341)
    oddly enough it was not mentioned that French Debian Linux is not the same distro as anywhere else... it uses time based on the French Prime Meridian ( ml) ... it's a terrible mess when sorting email by time [;
  • that'd be []
    First reply to the fourth post, yo!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not word by word, just the general "spirit" of the press release.

    Alcove (an IT service cie) won a RFP of France Télécomm. The project is to normalized the Intranet server platform (they call the project "Normalized Intranet Hosting Project on Linux"). Right now, every unit of France Télécomm. (6300 employees) run their own intranet on diversified platform (including NT and Linux). Develepomment is done using Frontpage and database access is granted through ASP/VBScript or Perl.
    Alcove will help Frnace Telecomm standardize on Linux. Goal of the project are :

    - support existing and future functionnality;
    - improve user comfort (sic!);
    - enable a better evolutivity;
    - simplify administration and maximize exploitation (sic) by the improved stability of Linux.

    The proposition is the following : Linux platform using the Debian GNU/Linux (yeah, they got it right !) distribution. The Web server will be Apache supporting Perl, PHP (more versatile and powerful than his equivalent ASP/VBScript) and Frontpage extensions. RDBMS will be PostgreSQL (SQL-92 compliant) having ODBC driver for transparent access from Windows workstation. ProFTPD, secure and performant, will be used to enable document updates.

    The contract will be signed on annual basis. It integrate follow-up of the project by project leader, consulting, "tip day" (journée de conseil; sic), on-site intervention for the initial deployement and configuration of the servers, some formation days and technical support.

    Snipped some biz-talk from the CEO. Basically, they (Alcove) have partenered with SGI recently and are working on 24/7 technical support for Linux. They are commited to the open-source model (so they claim).

    My translation is pretty bad, but so is their press release, believe me ! :)
  • by Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Thursday September 16, 1999 @11:34AM (#1678345)
    However, even the French will admit they tend to be a little backward on IT trends. I think it has to do with the language difference, which makes it harder to pick up on the e-Commerce craze, for instance, when most of said e-Commerce is in English.

    I don't agree on this point. Language barrier do count, but that would also encompass the japanese, the german and every other non-anglophone nation.

    Here in Quebec, most people speak french, but where doing quite well in IT trend, just lagging a bit behind the ROC (rest of Canada). We have a good burgeoning multimedia industrie (SoftImage, Ubisoft, to name a few).

    Also worth noting : telematic, smart card and digital cell phone are WAY more advanced in deployement in France than in North America. We could argue that the Minitel is just a dumb terminal with a 1200 bauds modem, but it is been widely used for 15-20 years. Smart card has replaced most ID and phone card there while we are still stuck with mag-strip card most of the time. GSM phone had been avalaible almost everywhere on continental Europe for a MANY years while we are just deploying in urban area here in North America.
  • This is good news for Linux but I have no love for France Telecom. We (the software company I work for) did a custom veriosn of our porduct for them about 3 years ago and they completely screwed us. They constantly changed what they wanted and in the end there was almost a comlete turnover in personal who decided to just drop the project. Leaving us with a couple of years of wasted time and much $$$$$ lost.

    My impression was that they were pretty clueless and that things were not going well for them. I hope things are different for them now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 1999 @11:47AM (#1678347)
    yes we are surely backwards in e-commerce but there are other things we do quite right. I've been living in the US for a few months now and I have a hard time thinking about anything in everyday life that is made easier by technology here. Actually you miss a few little things, like embedded chips on checking cards, and _you_ are a little backward on mobile phones and digital broadcasting. But you can buy cars on line, and you are ahead in the use of DSL (this we will probably catch up pretty fast) As for computer-illiterate senior executives, that wouldn't be too much of a problem for me. I'd prefer someone who relies on people who actually know, and who would make rational decisions in his field of competence, rather than someone who think he knows but who is actually clueless, like, say a vice president who thinks he has invented the internet, or a hype polluted MBA who thinks MS products must be good because if not why would Bill Gates be so rich. Actually the proportion of top execs who have extensive scientifical culture and technical background is higher in france because of how the education system works. Which is often seen as counter-productive in the economic field because a good engineer doesn't have to be a good manager, and a scientifically trained person would usually perform poorly when it comes to selling a product, or to make compromises. Which comes to what I think is the actual big difference : the economics. France's IT business' size is insignificant compared to the US' or even other european countries, in these "gold rush" fields like internet related stuff and PCs. This doesn't apply to other technological sectors (aeronautics, consummer electronics), that are not growing sectors, nor to telcos (france telecom is something like 4th or 5th in the world). Obviously we do not evaluate money loosing bookstores as being worth an oil company, but please try to be reasonnable in that, because if it collapses, this is not only the US, but the whole planet that would bear the consequences.
  • Is the number I saw mentioned by a France Telecom person on a mailing list.
  • Their "language barrier" has actually been helpful for inventing the fax machine, since this was the only simple way to transmit their ideogram-based writing.

    Not exactly. Japanese (as opposed to Chinese) uses a combination of syllable writing and ideograms, with the theoretical possibility to write Japanese with ~45 characters only.

  • Actually, the 8-bit charsets are katakana only.
  • The French are calling it Debian GNU/Linux because it is Debian GNU/Linux. Anybody with a modicum of intelligence would call it that as well.

    Note: there is no distribution named "Debian Linux."
  • by hernick ( 63550 ) on Thursday September 16, 1999 @02:55PM (#1678359)
    Alcôve has been able to win the bid because of the quality of their technical support and their extreme professionalism. France Télécom Paris is Alcôve's 500th customer.

    France Télécom Paris's Project PHENIX (Standardized Intranet Hosting Platform, under Linux): each business unit, and central command, will create their own intranet site that will eventually interface with databases. Presently, those sites are hosted on NT and Linux servers, and are created with Frontpage. Dynamic and data-access pages are created with ASP/VBScript or Perl.

    France Télécom Paris wishes to migrate all those sites to Linux, which supports all current and future requirements. The goal is to make things easier for the users, allow better scalability, and allow easier administration and use due to the stability of Linux.

    Alcôve's bid: Debian Linux, Apache with Perl and PHP (which is more powerful than ASP/VBScript) and Frontpage Extensions, PostgreSQL (free SQL/92 software with an ODBC driver that allows tight integration with windows clients), ProFTPD (for document updates). A very professional and complete contract which will be renewed annually. It comprises project monitoring by a project leader, an Open Computing consultant, day-long meetings, on-site installation and configuration of the server, day-long training and a technical support contract.

    For Lucien Petit, CEO of Alcôve: "This is a beautiful project. Add that to our recent strategic alliance with SGI, it makes us the Leader of Open Computing services. Our control position with the developers of Open Source Software allows us to help Big Companies and our friends. We are even working on 24/7 support to help them even more."

    Original article was full of crap. I abridged it. Nothing important was lost.
  • They didn't mention this in the annual report or any of the analysis; but since I was going to inspect some of their installations, I'll try to check some of the boxen out when I go.

    Always nice to read good news about an investment.

    Most of the revenue growth this year is from non-French investments, and wireless/cellular services, although Net services are a growing chunk.

  • I have already heard this story several times. I strongly doubt that it is real.

    On the other hand, the following story did happen.

    Several years ago, I decided to show my --French-- grandmother what you could do with a computer. She was ninety years old at the time. She sat at my desk and I tried to guide her through the basics of contemporary gui interfaces.
    "Move the mouse up", I told her, wanting her to get to the menubar.
    Guess what ? She lifted the mouse off the desk and raised it in the air !
    Not that she was stupid, on the contrary. She was a very bright lady, one of the few French women of her generation to graduate from law school.
    What this shows is that there is a certain degree of abstraction in how we relate to technology that we are familiar with, because we grew up with that technology. It is not a matter of intelligence, however, just acquired skills.
  • Really? =) I thought the only difference was the complete absence of cryptography...

  • Wasn't that story about the Paris Meridian finally uncovered as a hoax?

  • >My impression was that they were pretty clueless and that things were not going well for them.

    I have no love for FT either, but you can't say that seriously. FT is on of the world's top telco and is france's most profitable company with around 2 billion dollars profit each year. Although they are only a partly public company, they own a complete monopoly on local calls wich contributes greatly to their war chest.

    I'm sorry you got screwed by FT, but I can assure you they are doing fine.

  • See e.g. the SuSE [] announcement.
  • Hey, I know where you're coming from, I'm from Québec too. Actually, the language barrier *is* present in Québec; most governmental institutions are slow to catch up, for instance, with the Internet, because it has less appeal to a French-speaking population. That is not to say we are Neanderthals when it comes to IT: I work for the largest e-commerce services provider in Canada, and we're doing quite nicely, thank you.

    The examples you cited (SoftImage and UbiSoft) are good ones. There are many others. But there is less Internet and technology awareness in the general population and in governmental institutions. Of course, it could be argued that the language barrier doesn't matter as much as far as Québec is concerned, because IT business is concentrated in Montréal, where most people are fluent in both English and French.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • "Lucien Petit" was translated into:
    "Small Lucien, chairman of Alcove"

    Methinks babelfish needs a bit more work :)))


Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat. -- Ambrose Bierce