Groupe Bull

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Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryComputer hardware
Computer software
IT Services
Founded1931; 93 years ago (1931)
Area served

Bull SAS (also known as Groupe Bull, Bull Information Systems, or simply Bull) is a French computer company headquartered in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, in the western suburbs of Paris. The company has also been known at various times as Bull General Electric, Honeywell Bull, CII Honeywell Bull, and Bull HN. Bull was founded in 1931, as H.W. Egli - Bull, to capitalize on the punched card technology patents of Norwegian engineer Fredrik Rosing Bull (1882–1925).[1] After a reorganization in 1933, with new owners coming in, the name was changed to Compagnie des Machines Bull (CMB). Bull has a worldwide presence in more than 100 countries and is particularly active in the defense, finance, health care, manufacturing, public, and telecommunication sectors.



Share of the Compagnie des Machines Bull S. A., issued 1963

On 31 July 1919, a Norwegian engineer named Fredrik Rosing Bull filed a patent for a "combined sorter-recorder-tabulator of punch cards" machine that he had developed with financing from the Norwegian insurance company Storebrand.[2] Storebrand integrated his device into its operations in 1921. The following year Bull sold his second machine to the Danish insurer Hafnia who had learned of the technology through an article in an insurance trade magazine.[3] At the time of Bull's death of cancer in 1925 at the age of 43, a dozen of his machines had been sold to different companies throughout Europe.[3] The commercial and technical development of the machines continued under the direction of Bull's childhood friend and long-time collaborator Reidar Knutsen along with his brother Kurt Andréas Knutsen.

As the business grew several outside investors were brought in, leading to the incorporation of the company H.W. Egli Bull in 1931.[4] In 1933, more investors joined and the company changed its name to Compagnie des Machines Bull, a name it would keep until 1964.


The company has undergone many takeovers and mergers since its formation.[5][6][7][8] In particular, it has had various ownership relations with General Electric, Honeywell, and NEC from the 1960s to the 1980s; and with Motorola, Debeka, and France Télécom more recently. It acquired Honeywell Information Systems in the late 1980s, and later also had a share of Zenith Data Systems and Packard Bell. Bull was nationalised in 1982 and was merged with most of the rest of the French computer industry.

Groupe Bull bought Zenith Electronics in late December 1989. It kept Zenith Data Systems' headquarters and plants in Chicago and St. Joseph, Michigan.[9] In 1994, the company was re-privatised.

In August 2014, the French IT company Atos announced that it had acquired a controlling stake in Bull SA through a tender offer launched in May.[10] Atos announced plans in October, 2014 to buy out or squeeze out the remaining share and bondholders.[11]

Bull launched the Hoox m2, the first integrally secured European smartphone, which in June 2014 was approved for use with data classified as 'Restricted Information' ('Diffusion Restreinte') by the Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information (ANSSI).[12] The Hoox range of secure mobiles and smartphones ensures confidentiality of voice, SMS, e-mail and data communication.

Products and services[edit]


  • Supercomputers
  • NovaScale[13] servers (Linux and Windows), Escala servers (AIX) and mainframes GCOS (design, manufacturing, distribution)
  • Data storage and backup systems, cloud computing infrastructure
  • Mobile/smart phones (Hoox)

Software and services[edit]

  • Open source ( portal)
  • Information technology consulting and services, custom solutions development for clients
  • Systems integration
  • Human resource and social welfare management systems
  • Managed services and web hosting
  • Support
  • Training

Information security[edit]

  • Public key infrastructure
  • Electronic signature solutions
  • Encryption solutions (hardware and software)
  • Digital payment security
  • Identity, authentication and access management
  • High availability and disaster recovery
  • Systems and network monitoring

Corporate structure[edit]

Groupe Bull:

  • Bull SAS
    • Agarik (Managed services, web hosting)
    • HRBC (Human Resources systems)
    • Bull PI (Engineering, research)
    • Sirus (Social welfare management systems for the public sector)
  • Bull International SAS
  • Evidian (Security; identity and access management)
  • Serviware (high performance computing)
  • Amesys SAS :
    • Amesys Consulting (including Amesys International)
    • Amesys RSS (including TRCOM)
  • Elexo (networking and telecommunications equipment)

Amesys controversy[edit]

Amesys, a Groupe Bull subsidiary specializing in defense and aerospace-related systems and software, became embroiled in controversy in 2011 when it was revealed that it had sold an internet monitoring system to the Muammar Gaddafi regime of Libya in 2007. The Eagle System was used by the Gaddafi regime to spy on citizens and foreign journalists. On 12 March 2013 Reporters Without Borders named Amesys as one of five "Corporate Enemies of the Internet" and "digital era mercenaries" for selling products that have been or are being used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. A judicial inquiry was opened by the French government in May 2012 following allegations of complicity in torture by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).[14][15][16] In March 2012 Groupe Bull divested itself of the Eagle System, selling it for the sum of 4 million euros to Nexa Technologies, a company run by a former Amesys CEO.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Heide, Lars (2002) National Capital in the Emergence of a Challenger to IBM in France" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  2. ^ "Histoire de Bull". Retrieved 2014-10-11.
  3. ^ a b "Bull et le 20ème arrondissement". sur le Site personnel de François Holvoet-Vermaut.
  4. ^ "Événement".
  5. ^ Pierre Mounier-Kuhn, "Bull - A Worldwide Company Born in Europe", Annals of the History of Computing, 1989, vol. 11/4.
  6. ^ Mounier-Kuhn, Pierre. "From Kamatec to Bull Netherlands". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "From General Electric to Bull: a case of managerial knowledge transfer". Archived from the original on 2016-08-06. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  8. ^ Mounier-Kuhn, Pierre-Eric (1995). "Le CNETet les débuts de l'informatique (1944-1964)". Réseaux. Communication - Technologie - Société. 13 (70): 173–189. doi:10.3406/reso.1995.2673.
  9. ^ "Groupe Bull Announces Plans for Zenith Acquisition, New Model". January 17, 1990.
  10. ^ "Atos succeeds in bid to buy Bull". Retrieved 2014-10-11.
  11. ^ "Atos to launch buyout of last 5% of Bull shares, bonds". Retrieved 2014-10-11.
  12. ^ "Home - Atos". Atos.
  13. ^ Gillian Law. "Bull launches NovaScale blade servers". Network World.
  14. ^ "Corporate Enemies: Amesys" Archived 2014-03-26 at the Wayback Machine, The Enemies of the Internet, Special Edition: Surveillance, Reporters Without Borders, 12 March 2013
  15. ^ "Firms Aided Libyan Spies ", Paul Sonne and Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, 30 August 2011
  16. ^ "Life Under the Gaze of Gadhafi's Spies ", Margaret Coker and Paul Sonne, Wall Street Journal, 14 December 2011
  17. ^ "Advanced Middle East Systems et Nexa vont faire le voyage depuis Dubai Billancourt". 20 August 2013. Retrieved 2014-10-08.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]