From Microsoft Desktops To Linux Thin Clients

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jun 10, 2004

’Cut the flab, get fit’ - Although it reads more like the snippet pasted on your gymnasium door, CTOs are pushing technology through rigorous exercise routines of their own. IT budgets have a tremedous potential to lose weight, and decision makers have started to ‘workout’ radical solutions.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Joe Paul Mampilly, superintendent - IT, Central Excise, Cochin, said, “We have migrated our entire Microsoft based network to Linux based thin clients. Different sections across departments are now using Red Hat, both at the desktop and server level, registering a significant cost saving.”

So what was the reason behind taking such a drastic step? Mampilly replied, “The basic problem that we encountered in using Microsoft software, was the frequent appearance of viruses that destroyed and corrupted a lot of valuable information. As we are a government organization, employees often take official work home on floppy diskettes. This constant influx of data from home PC’s was bringing in a lot of viruses, and despite having preventive software’s in place, data corruption became a serious issue to contend with.” In many situations, the organization was completely flummoxed about the source of multiple viruses flooding in.

To complete the Linux migration, the organization has also migrated from MS Office to its Open Source competitor, OpenOffice. However, Mampilly admitted, “We had to overcome the initial problem of training users on OpenOffice.”

The body is flagging off a major online project in the beginning of next month, which will enable companies to file their returns online. The solution has again been designed by NIC, and will be hosted on a central server at the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC). Data from the server will be accessible to all department heads of various formations, and will be particularly useful for large manufacturers, who can download files, fill them offline and then post it on the CBEC server. With about 96 commissionerates and anything between 10-20 users per location, the server will support approximately 1000 users simultaneously.

“Currently, we have ten servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which host java based applications. A key solution, called the Sermon Package, has been designed by NIC for entering revenue details and other critical information,” detailed Mampilly.

Strongly advocating the Linux revolution, Mampilly said, “Even when we had purchased Windows 95 initially, there were frequent doubts and help requests from our employees. When we migrated to Red Hat, there was an initial resistance from users, which was expected since we are a government organization that rotates employees as frequently as once a year. As training itself takes 1-2 months (depending on the users skills), the short employee tenure of one year was a temporary bottleneck that we had to tackle. I personally feel that Linux involves an entire mindset change, and there is no reason why more government organizations shouldn’t embrace it.”

Rajesh Kumar, Business Manager-India, Focuz Infotech (The Linux integrator and support provider for Central Excise Cochin), said, “The fact that Central Excise & Customs - a premier government body in India - has shifted their Microsoft based network to Linux, is the strongest example that supports the new trend of shifting to Open Source from proprietary technology.”

Since bandwidth requirements are growing manifold, the organization plans to shift from Asia net to VSNL with a new 512 Kbps line.

Tags: Microsoft