Om Logistics Saves Crores With Red Hat Linux

by Amit Tripathi    Jul 16, 2004

In a laudable effort that has resulted in systematic migration of over 500 desktops as well as servers from Microsoft Windows to the Linux platform, Delhi based Om Logistics has immediately realized a cost saving to the tune of more than Rs 2 crore per year. What’s more, the company has forgotten what dealing with the menace of viruses and worms is all about.

The enterprise, a part of Om Group, had 20 machines on Windows in the year 2000 with 12 IT personnel in the IT department. Then, in 2001 plans for business expansion led to search for methods to acquire more stable systems that could handle business traffic with little downtime. At present the company has more than 550 desktops with an IT department strength of 20 personnel.

Says S.K. Goel, head-IT, Om Logistics, “We installed Red Hat 7 first on our IT departments’ machines. Observing it’s stability, soon we installed the same on more desktops in other departments, as and when new machines were purchased.”

Not just the operating system at the desktop level, but at the application server level too, where RHEL 3 had been installed, the online interactive process (OLIP) application design was done using open COBOL and COBOL scripted Perl. All the 200 branches of Om Logistics are connected to this server during the day (which is accessed by about 3,000 users daily, including customers). Customers can log in on this server and see their consignment details on a real time basis.

The IT landscape at Om Logistics comprises of web servers on Red Hat 8.0 which contain the Apache web server, IP tables to enable firewall and Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) to facilitate DNS server, and Sendmail as the mail server with spam-filter solution ’SpamAssassin’. At the company’s head office and divisional offices the servers have IP tables, Sendmail for e-mail, and Squid for Internet.

The desktops are a combination of many denominations of Linux namely Red Hat 7.0, the Fedora Core1 with utilities like OpenOffice, Evolution or Netscape for e-mail and Mozilla or Netscape for web browsing. Goel added, “We have purchased a single user license from Red Hat only a year back and use the General Public License (GPL) scheme to extend it to many users. Thus we stand to get support from them. Otherwise we are using the freeware versions of Linux.”

Goel elaborated, “Our customers have two methods of tracking their consignments. One is by sending their consignment number through e-mail to the application server, which uses Perl script to pick relevant data from the database and an automatic reply is sent back to the customer. In the other method, a customer can send an SMS to a number fed in the application server, which uses a Java application to fetch the SMS and gather data from the database, and then an auto SMS is sent to the customer.”

Speaking about the cost that the enterprise had incurred using Windows, Goel said, “The cost calculation is not very easy as it involves many dimensions. Considering that on an average 3,000 customers log in to our application server for consignment tracking per day, it comes to Rs 30 lakh if we assume a minimum license fee of Rs 1000 per user. If we had to maintain a data center with Windows, with just one server at each of the 200 branches, it would have cost us another Rs 40 Lakhs (i.e. Rs 20,000 x 200). Other major one time costs include the cost of Windows OS (Rs.3540, OEM Pack, for 550 desktops amounts to Rs.19,47,000), the cost of MS Office (Rs.11,150 per desktop for 550 desktops amounts to Rs.61,32,500), the cost of anti virus client (Rs 1797 X 550 amounts to 9,88,350).”

In addition to these are the recurring costs comprising of the cost of bandwidth use in case of more downtime. Elaborating on that Goel said, “As attacks consume more bandwidth, with Windows systems, the cost per terminal was Rs. 1000 per terminal per month. By using the cache and proxy services of Linux we could bring this down to Rs. 500 per terminal per month. Thus we saved approximately Rs 30 lakh per year this way.”

In such a scenario, how has Goel managed to handle occasional troubles with the system that might have cropped up when he did not have the license? He replied, “Of course initially problems were there. We had problems of printer configuration, deploying the Samba file sharing system, installing the proxy server and firewall. But these were basically due to our lack of expertise. Then we appointed a consultant who trained us on these aspects. Since two years we have absolutely no problems. We have almost forgotten what a computer virus looks like.”

Om Logistics at present has more than 550 desktops, and IBM x440 servers powered by 8 Xeon processors, with a RAM capacity of 16GB.

As a message to those CIOs who are evaluating the option of Linux for their enterprises, Goel stressed, “It is not wise to look at Linux in terms of cost reduction. Rather the stability it provides should be the main point of evaluation. What is even more important is how various applications to be used, are planned and suitably allocated by the IT head for his enterprise.”

Citing an instance, Goel clarified, “In a Linux landscape if we have Visual Basic applications, it is always better to allocate separate resources for it in order to avoid incompatibility.” In fact at Om logistics their accounting application — Tally — still runs on a Widows system. But the ratio of Linux to Windows machines in use is 99:1.

Many would brand this as an ideal cost reduction scenario, but the logistics company, prefers to stick to the stability value that Linux offers. “Had Linux been equally expensive we would have still opted for it, because of the stability it has provided to our enterprise.”

Tags: Linux