Knysna municipality turns to Linux for collaboration

By   |  April 11, 2005

With a commitment on the table to using open source in its future technology roadmap, the Southern Cape\’s Knysna municipality last year was looking to increase the reach and functionality offered by its collaboration solution.

After considering numerous options, the solution chosen was Novell GroupWise, running on a SUSE Linux server. This decision not only allowed the municipality to keep to its goal of using open source and complimentary closed-source solutions, but allowed the municipality to meet the budgeted capital it had allocated to this project.

Completed in a short two weeks, this migration has astounded the municipality, has proven that Linux is enterprise ready, and has given the municipality the motivation it needed to migrate to Linux and open source software completely in the next two years.

Background
Prior to its move to GroupWise on SUSE Linux, the Knysna municipality was using an eSmith server for e-mail, remotely managing the solution using the built-in Webmin web administration solution. This solution, while stable, did not allow the municipality to make use of true collaboration functionality like shared calendaring and tasks.

Its commitment to using open source solutions notwithstanding, the Knysna municipality had a long-standing relationship with Microsoft. That said however, the municipality is planning to make the transition to open source software in every aspect of its IT operations in the next two years.

\”After evaluating the price of installing an Exchange server with the relevant client access licenses, we found the costs to be prohibitive,\” says Isabel Nel, head of IT at the Knysna municipality. \”When considering Novell GroupWise on SUSE Linux however, we found the costs to be approximately half. What\’s more however, is the fact that we would not have to incur additional costs for adding more users to the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server solution, for file and print sharing,\” she
says.

The municipality had been dealing with Red LinX, an open source software specialist, for the last two years. Red LinX was responsible for the support and maintenance of the eSmith server, having taken over the installation from another vendor that the municipality had been using for some time.

\”Red LinX is also one of Novell\’s preferred channel partners in the Cape region, since they possess a high level of Linux and open source knowledge, not to mention a growing understanding of Novell\’s product and solutions set on Linux,\” says Peter Hunter, regional manager of Novell Cape.

Trevor Fraser, technical manager at Red LinX, says: \”We were extremely happy with the municipality\’s decision to go with GroupWise and SUSE Linux, since the eSmith server it was using previously was as a result of a decision made prior to our engagement with the Knysna municipality and, while loosely based on the Linux kernel, did not conform to many of
the standard conventions that make Linux such a powerful tool.\”

Sean van der Walt, managing director at Red LinX, says that as an open source specialist, Red LinX is more familiar with Linux than other operating systems, something that for the most part plays to the company\’s strengths. \”We know from first hand experience that Linux is far more stable than comparable server operating systems, and despite what nay sayers in the market are saying, offers far superior total cost of ownership (TCO) and effects tangible cost savings to the customer.

\”The fact that Linux was able to offer the Municipality a fixed cost on Enterprise Server functionality, regardless of how many users are connected to it was a big factor in the Municipality\’s decision to go this route,\” continues van der Walt.

Lower cost
Nel says that the Municipality also took things like the lower virus incidence rate of Linux into account when making its decision. \”We were however, particularly swayed by the lower cost of the solution and the fact that open source software played a role in the overall solution. Using open source software and contributing to the revenues of local open source companies just has a better feel about it, like you\’re contributing directly to the local economy, since you\’re aware of the fact that the revenues generated stay in South Africa and are not destined for an international software company based in the US or Europe,\” Nel says.

In terms of the functionality the Knysna Municipality was after, Nel says that because employees are scattered across various buildings, scheduling meetings was a pain before. \”With GroupWise we have the abilty to schedule meetings electronically and ensure the relevant people attend, something that has had a very positive effect on the Municipality\’s efficiency.\”

Currently the Municipality is providing full e-mail, calendaring and task management functionality to 120 users in its employee base through the GroupWise solution. The connectivity of an additional 80 users is however hampered by the fact that many users are outside of the network\’s reach. \”When wireless becomes legal however, we plan to add these 80 users to the solution,\” Nel says.

Nel says both herself and the Municipality management team were astounded at the speed with which the new solution was rolled out and the users on the previous solutions migrated across to GroupWise. \”Within a two-week window we had a complete migration to GroupWise. These results have given us the motivation needed to effect a complete Linux and open source migration on both the server and the desktop in the coming year.

\”We plan to start with what we call our \’outside users\’, namely those users located outside of our physical infrastructure. Already we can see that the cost benefits of using an open source operating system and productivity suite are massive. What has been holding us up until now has been the fact that we have a Level-6 agreement with Microsoft. With that ending in the next two years however, the timing is now perfect for a migration. We plan to be completely moved over to Linux and open
source by that time.\”

Hunter says that both he and Novell are delighted with the results the Knysna Municipality has received thus far. \”This successful implementation, in such a short space of time, paves the way for future implementations and proves that Linux is ready for the enterprise market. We look forward to assisting both Red LinX and the Municipality with its move to open source in the coming months, since we\’re convinced that great value, increased stability and cost savings will follow,\” he
says.

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