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Feature: Migration

Linux pumps up fitness retailer's network, desktops

By Tina Gasperson on July 28, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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Fitness equipment supplier LA Gym Equipment is getting its information technology in shape by moving from Windows to Linux.
LA Gym, founded in 1988, sells fitness equipment from 13 locations around Southern California. The company also has a commercial sales department that consults with and outfits professional gyms, providing layout and design help, delivery, and installation of equipment.

Windows was giving LA Gym's IT manager Brian Scott a workout every time more than one user accessed a file on the network at the same time. "The company was having trouble with Paradox 4.5 lockups," Scott says. Every time it happened, "it forced us to ask 75 users to log off and wait" while Scott and his staff got the network unstuck. The problem was Windows' annoying little habit of locking in-use files.

Paradox is a relational database that LA Gym uses to keep track of inventory and manage sales. The executable must be installed on each individual workstation, while the data is stored on a Citrix server. It is DOS-based, but LA Gym executives weren't interested in upgrading to a GUI product.

When Scott came on board last March, he saw that "everyone pretty much relied on Outlook and Microsoft Office," and because none of the company executives realized that most of the instability and frequent network-wide lockups caused by file sharing problems could be blamed on proprietary software, no one was champing at the bit to switch to open source software.

Scott devised a plan to switch to Linux. "I proposed a solution for reliability and better security -- SUSE Linux. It took me a while to convince the president to move to open source.

"I took the Paradox database and made an isolated environment with it, running SUSE [on a file server]. I showed them that by running it off an open source platform, it didn't lock up," because Linux allows more than one user to open a file at the same time. Scott's boss agreed that the Linux file server stopped the frequent network lockups and allowed him to deploy it company-wide.

"Our first step was to get about 40 workstations upgraded and the printers online with HP Jetdirect print server boxes running with Novell iPrint. Setting up the NetWare servers and migrating the users over from connecting to NetWare instead of Windows NT was not a big problem at all," Scott says. Since the company wanted to stick with Paradox, Scott installed SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with VMWare GSX. "We used GSX to run multiple Citrix servers in order to house the Paradox database. The final step was the hot swap of the database from the NT server to NetWare, which was pretty easy since NetWare fully supports Paradox."

Making the switch to Linux has been good for network security and stability, but it's been great for the bottom line, too. Scott says the company has saved at least $400,000 in licensing fees, upgrades, and new software purchases, as well as realizing payroll savings with reduced staff needs.

But, Scott says, LA Gym isn't really done with its Linux conversion yet. "When we're done, the 13 stores will be running Novell Linux desktops with instant messaging and OpenOffice.org, as well as Paradox," he says. By moving the desktops to Linux, Scott hopes to save even more money, as well as tech support labor. He expects that conversion to be complete within eight months.

"Twenty percent of our employees are already running OpenOffice.org on Windows. Our first task was to train them on OpenOffice.org; then we will switch to Linux." Converting employees to OpenOffice.org brought formatting problems when converting files from Word format. "When people first used OpenOffice.org, the formatting was somewhat distorted," Scott says. "We sat down and worked out the differences with them. Now we have everyone first create their documents in OpenOffice.org." Other than that, the migration hasn't caused any problems. Says Scott, "It's been pretty easy."

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on Linux pumps up fitness retailer's network, desktops

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Nice story...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 29, 2005 04:04 AM
It's good to see another success story about switching to Linux.

Now, all they need to do is get their website moved off IIS, rewritten in PHP and remove the silly "Works best with IE5+" line from their homepage....

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Re:Nice story...

Posted by: Brian Masinick on July 29, 2005 11:41 AM
There is no doubt that any migration effort has its costs and difficulties, but here is yet another case where a company found that it is not only possible to switch to another environment, it is also both cost effective and beneficial in other ways as well.

There is no question that Open Office renders some documents differently than Microsoft Office does. I believe that Office intentionally formats text in such a way that reading documents with competing word processors, such as Word Perfect, Lotus' office suite, AbiWord, or Open Office, will result in the contents of the page potentially having a different appearance.

These things can be overcome. The best way to overcome them is for users to first move over to Open Office (and for that matter, Firefox for their browsing and Thunderbird for their Email), and iron out issues there. Once that environment stabilizes, it is a much easier matter to move applications and other data to another system.

I use Thunderbird, for example, on Windows XP along with Front Page. I extract Web page data from Front Page, open a new document with Thunderbird, paste the contents into the document from Front Page, then send it to my other systems, which also read mail using Thunderbird.

While this is not an optimal final solution, it enables me to easily move small quantities of information between systems with no functional loss of information.

I then use all open and freely available tools on my other systems without the restraints of having to use Front Page, a proprietary product.

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Nice Story

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 30, 2005 02:14 AM
This is Brian Scott, You are correct about the site, I already have a web development company converting the site from ASP to PHP so I can run it in a LAMP configuration keep checking the site in a few weeks for the new web site @ www.LAGym.Com

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Netware

Posted by: Norbert van Nobelen on August 01, 2005 03:32 AM
Why switch to netware when you are switching to linux?

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Paradox Headaches

Posted by: cmgar on August 02, 2005 12:56 AM
Not that switching to Linux didn't have it's benefits for them but Paradox is one of the worst database environments I've ever worked in. It's not so much Windows issues as the way Paradox is set up. Lock files are created when someone opens up a specific Paradox DB. If the Borland Database Engine's properties are set correctly to share the DB it runs like a champ (still not a big fan, but it can be made to run properly). Oh well, sounds like they got it sorted out.

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The same guys that beat us up in high school...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 30, 2005 08:17 AM
are now bullying us into powering thier infrastructure.

That was my lunch money and you had no right to take it!

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