Open source deeply ingrained at CityLink

CityLink and Egressive recognised for open source efforts

Network provider CityLink is focused on using the best tools available to support its infrastructure and deliver services to customers — and that has led to it using a lot of open source software.

CityLink won an award in the Open Source Awards last month for its use of the software in infrastructure. Primarily it uses Linux as a platform for running routers, as well as using it for back-office systems, servers and desktops across the organisation, says Simon Blake, CityLink’s CTO.

Cost is part of the reason why CityLink uses open source, but what makes sense to the business comes first, says Blake.

“We use open source because it is the best tool available,” he says. “We use it where it is appropriate — we use commercial software as well.”

While Blake was pleased to win the award, he thinks a dedicated Open Source Awards becomes less relevant as open source becomes more commonplace.

However, there are people out there who give their heart and soul to open source and achieve “fantastic things”, and the Awards is important for recognising their efforts, he says.

“We don’t have awards for best use of water or for turning up at work every day,” he says. “We don’t have to have awards for it — it’s just what everyone does. That is how deeply ingrained [the use of open source] is in what we do here.”

The company also contributes to the open source community by offering a public FTP-server, from which people can download the Ubuntu and Debian operating systems locally. CityLink provides the disk space and servers, and recently bought 20TB of disk storage to update the servers, he says.

CityLink uses Debian and Ubuntu internally and therefore need the resources, so the costs of making the resources publicly available were not too huge, says Blake.

Egressive, a ten-year-old provider of open source software and business IT solutions, took home the award for Open source use in business.

The company, which started as a one man band, has grown to now employ eight staff, says founder Dave Lane.

The difference from ten years ago is that Lane no longer has to explain the benefits of open source to customers, or “battle” against customers who would prefer a proprietary solution. Now, customers are better educated on open source, he says.

Egressive has recently done quite a lot of open source web application development, says Lane. He says there is an increasing interest in open source web technologies among local businesses and government agencies.

The company is also involved in three projects which have Digital Strategy funding.

Going down the open source path is a great use of this type of funding, as the software that Egressive develops for one organisation can be made available to other organisations at no cost, he says.

“If one organisation needs a certain capability for its website, other organisations may well be able to use that capability, rather than having to start from scratch,” says Lane.

He is pleased to see that customers are starting to realise what savings they can make by sharing the cost of open source development.

Together with three other Christchurch companies — Reurbanise, IOPEN and ZYPE — Egressive has built a cluster called the Effusion Group. In 2002, the group set up an environment in Christchurch’s city centre where a community could form, says Lane. Around ten open source and open standards-focused software and hardware developers are now using the space and the shared resources it offers, he says.

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