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Kenosha Finds Big Savings in Linux

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Ruth Schall remembers when vendors and fellow I.T. directors would look at her network and scratch their heads.

"I would get calls and people would think we were freaks. They'd say, 'What are you doing?'" recalls Schall, director of MIS for the city of Kenosha, Wis. "But people don't consider us quite so strange anymore."

Now, instead of expressing surprise at the broad use of Linux Latest News about Linux, Kenosha's peers are calling for advice. "It's been interesting to watch the evolution. Now we have people call and say 'Can we come in and see what you're doing?'" she says.

Kenosha, a city of about 100,000, was on the bleeding edge when it began deploying Linux nearly a decade ago. The city had been a Unix shop, but as I.T. demands became more dynamic and more dependent on the Internet, Schall decided that instead of buying more Unix boxes, it was time to look at an inexpensive alternative.

"We started bringing in Linux for our Web servers, our mail servers, DNS," she says. "We had read about how stable [Linux] was and we wanted to see for ourselves."

They also wanted to see what cost savings they could achieve. A study Schall conducted years ago showed that the city averaged savings of about $100,000 a year, and she believes it could be higher today.

Much of the savings comes from Linux being easier to monitor and manage, especially on the desktop. "Without Linux, we wouldn't be able to get by with the people we have," Schall says.

Schall's full-time staff of four manages about 300 client devices and about 20 servers for 19 departments, many of which are remote. The remote sites are connected via private lines or DSL. The servers run more than a dozen homegrown legacy applications, including systems for tax receipts, payroll and water bills.

Today, most of the city's servers are from Penguin Computing, a firm founded in 1998 that specializes in Linux servers. Its client devices are Neoware-embedded Linux thin clients that run a variety of open source applications, including Open Office. The city uses Red Hat Linux.

Schall says there were no major issues with the migration to Linux on either the server or the desktop. As for the server side of things, Kerkman says migration has been pain free.
"As we grew, I haven't really hit a roadblock saying, Oh, I can't do this because we're running Linux," he says.

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