by T.J.* & Scott Berinato

What It’s Like To…Move a Company to Open Source

Dec 15, 20042 mins
Open Source

A manufacturing company IT director describes how to make the switch to open source.

About three months ago, I was hired by an 80-person manufacturing company as director of IT, primarily because of my experience with Linux. Job number one, they said, was to ditch as much Microsoft software as possible. They had just acquired a company that used Linux; it was time for the home office to switch over too.

The company’s motivation was price and stability. It needed $50,000 just to catch up on its Microsoft licenses. At the same time, several Windows servers – including the mail server – were crashing daily. My initial research showed that if we spent $1,000 on hardware and software, we could save $10,000 to $50,000 per year in license fees and other maintenance costs.

But as soon as I settled in, my boss, the CIO, began to get cold feet. Most of her objections were to changing “where people would have to click.”


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When I tried to push for the changeover to Linux by mentioning the license issues, the CIO’s response was, “Well, we haven’t been audited yet.” Cost and compliance were taking a backseat to comfort with where people clicked.

And suddenly there was doubt about maturity. I’m constantly asked, “So, what makes this ready for the enterprise?” I hate that.

At least I’ve got a few Linux boxes inside the building. We’ve also laid out a long-term agenda that includes open source as the primary domain controller. In six months, I hope to have moved a few functions over to Linux: printing, some file-sharing, backup, DNS, FTP, routing/firewall and the primary domain controller.

On the other hand, the e-mail system – the single biggest problem on the network – is going to live on MS Exchange/NT4 (which, by the way, hasn’t been patched in years), probably until the sun goes supernova. I’ve demo’d Linux mail servers running with Evolution, the Linux mail client (which is really quite good), but my boss thinks people wouldn’t know where to click.

It looks like the weaning process is going to take longer than I thought.

—As told to Scott Berinato

* TJ requested anonymity.