Manufacturer moves to Linux for stability

Posted by kozmcrae on Mar 29, 2006 6:35 AM EDT
LinuxWorld; By Rodney Gedda
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Automotive electronics manufacturer and a supplier to big names like General Motors Holden, Australian Arrow has migrated half its servers to Linux in two years to gain greater stability.

Arrow systems administrator William Wheatley brought Linux skills into the company prompting all systems from SAP to those for manufacturing lines to be run on the open source operating system.

"There is a cost saving with Linux, but that's a bonus because, if [systems] go down it's millions lost every day," Wheatley told Computerworld. "Talk about saving money is a bit pie-in-the-sky, but Linux is definitely [saving] us from buying more software. Next year we will be able to remove or reuse some licences."

Arrow went from all Windows servers in two years and will increase Linux server use to 75 percent over the next 18 months.

"Stability is the number-one concern and our operations span the region, so there is always someone using the systems," Wheatley said. "We've had 100 percent uptime with Linux and management notices the difference."

Arrow is using CentOS, a Red Hat derivative, as its main Linux distribution with "a couple of legit copies of Red Hat where we can't afford the downtime, for example with CRM".

"We've had IBM techs come out and I didn't tell them it wasn't Red Hat and they went ahead and updated it as if it was," Wheatley said, adding the company was severely over-licensed with Microsoft products and even bought them to ensure its 'safety'.

Arrow is in the testing stage of a SAP ERP migration from Windows to Linux involving three servers. The two systems are running in parallel and will be cut over to production Linux at the end of the year as "it's looking really good".

There are no plans to move to Linux on the desktop as "we're a very archaic organization in many ways and it would take time", but the system administrators run it on their desktops.

"We are using Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory so it would be a big migration from the Windows desktop," Wheatley said. "The IT manager was initially mistrustful, but quickly noticed the stability. Some people still believe open source is less secure, but you just need to prove them wrong."

Arrow has also adopted the Common Unix Printing System, or CUPS, to prevent losing SAP's barcoded dockets.

"We used to lose dockets all the time but CUPS gives transparency," Wheatley said. "We also use Samba, MySQL, Apache, PHP, and authentication is done via Kerberos. The end user doesn't even know it's Linux."

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