'Nightmare' drove desperate user to open source

IT managers who want to deploy an open source solution but are worried about company politics should go ahead and do it without asking, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Japan IT manager Mark Uemura.

Faced with an unreliable network, Uemura went ahead and migrated systems from Windows to OpenBSD on the premise that management would trust his judgement.

"PricewaterhouseCoopers is a Windows shop but we were forced to use open source," he said. "I inherited a real nightmare with servers going up and down. There were e-mail outages and on top of that there was a bad relationship between our users and IT."

Speaking at this year's AUUG conference in Sydney, Uemura said PWC chose OpenBSD, an operating system he is comfortable with, because of its "security, stability, and cost".

"Because we were all Windows on the client and server we had to make sure everything interoperated," he said, adding most of the migration to OpenBSD was replacing network security devices with Intel servers.

"My predecessor spent too much [so] I was told not to spend any money." When asked what argument he used to convince management to use an open source solution, Uemura said: "They didn't have an argument because they said don't spend any money." "They trusted me," he said. "The whole office was relying on one domain controller which was dying."

Uemura said a lot of work was done "behind the scenes".

"My experience is that if something has to be done, just do it - don't ask! They will thank you later," he said.

In Japan large organizations like Morgan Stanley and the Bank of America have moved all their backend systems to open source, Uemura said, because with open source you can reduce IT operating costs without any commercial lock-in.

"We had a lot of downtime and data loss before we migrated over. After five months that was eliminated," he said. "There is a lot about open source that people don't know. Many corporations tend to lump open source into one basket, which is a shame."

After the five-month migration, PWC's servers are now equally split between Windows and OpenBSD.

"Microsoft just happens to be one of our clients and Checkpoint is our standard firewall," Uemura said. "Checkpoint on Windows was unmanageable but after a few months of using OpenBSD we were told to put Checkpoint back."

Then PWC was hit with a virus affecting network traffic and the Checkpoint firewall was running at 100 percent CPU capacity which was effectively a denial of service.

"So we had to put an OpenBSD firewall in front of Checkpoint," he said. "We saved seven salaries worth over one year. It was so dramatic they gave me a big raise and I was promoted from system administrator to IT manager. And because of the savings we get more productivity out of old hardware."

Despite this Uemura is adamant the move wasn't made because he wanted to. "As much as I love OpenBSD, we had no choice," he said.

Meanwhile, in other open source news, gaming machine services and monitor Unitab will undertake a development project to help manage information gathered by some 700 Linux-based appliances. Read the story here.

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