Linux gets big in Christchurch

Christchurch is becoming something of a Linux hot bed. Tait Electronics infrastructure manager Barry Ireland thinks the firm may have one of the biggest Linux installations in the country, while MasterTrade is running Linux on 300 desktops.

Christchurch is becoming something of a Linux hot bed.

Tait Electronics infrastructure manager Barry Ireland thinks the firm may have one of the biggest Linux installations in the country, running 500 Windows users over about 400 active Samba sessions on a Linux Red Hat server. MasterTrade, meanwhile, another Christchurch company, is running Linux on 300 desktops.

Tait, which has around 650 staff at its Christchurch base and 800 internationally, moved its file and print, storage and networking services from Sun Solaris to Red Hat running on Intel servers built by Christchurch’s Cyclone Computers.

Ireland says the electronics supplier has been seeing huge growth in its data flows and needed more disk space and file serving capacity. It had been running centralised file and print services on Samba on the Sun platform. “To get a number of features that we wanted, such as access control lists, we took a default Red Hat install which uses a basic Linux kernel and changed the kernel.”

Ireland says Tait was lucky enough to have staff with the necessary skills and the process didn’t prove too difficult.

The firm is now conducting policy routing between its ADSL and dedicated data connections, its proxy services, intrusion detection, mail gateways and traffic shaping, all using standard Linux utilities.

“There were some concerns raised about whether Linux was ready to deliver a system of this scale and criticality. Initial challenges were encountered in compiling a suitable kernel and supporting software. Benchmark performance tests were carried out with NetBench to verify system performance and to compare against the same hardware running Windows 2000 Server. Our testing showed that our Linux system was indeed ready.”

Tait continues to use Sun Solaris for its Baan ERP system, which it is upgrading, and Informix database, and Windows NT and 2000 for a range of applications and on the desktop.

Building supplier MasterTrade has had 300 desktops spread over 45 branches running Gnome Linux for more than year. The company, which has been bought by the Australian-based Crane Group, is merging with Cory’s Electrical.

Cory’s runs NCD Thin-Stars, which will also run off Master-Trade’s Red Hat Linux server from June 1. MasterTrade data processing manager Neil Helson says the company started off running Linux on the desktop, using Abiword as the word processor and Gnumeric as the spreadsheet. “There has been no difficulty for staff making the switch because the applications so closely resemble their Windows equivalents,” says Helson.

The company then switched its financial system from SCO Unix to Red Hat.

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