Shop ships out OS switch

Late last month, Fusepoint Managed Services Inc. revealed it had completed what the company called “a challenging network migration” from Solaris to Linux for Vancouver-based RewardStream Inc., a company that designs, deploys and operates rewards-based direct marketing programs.

“We were on the Solaris platform for about two years. We found getting updates and fixes for the operating system from Sun took time,” said Simon Tin-Yul Kok, technical solutions manager for RewardStream.

Previously, Kok’s IT department hosted the Solaris environment and a lot of RewardStream’s applications were written around it. It was his internal development team that decided to make the move to Linux.

“Our core development group wanted to focus on our loyalty platform and not have to worry [if applications are] going to run properly on a Web server,” he said, which is why all of RewardStream’s internal IT functionality is also being outsourced to Fusepoint in addition to the task of handling the migration of operating systems.

Migrating from Solaris to Linux may not be as common as moving from Microsoft to Linux but Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst with Evans Reasearch Group in Toronto, is not surprised to hear it is happening.

“It is not anti-Solaris but pro-Linux is how I look at it,” Warren said. “The push for Linux is pretty strong and powerful and is picking up steam in popularity. You are looking at pretty signigicant migrations [where] organizations such as Microsoft and Sun are trying to hold on to their customers,” she added. Warren also said these types of migrations are a huge undertaking and not something organizations would enter into quickly.

According to Robert Offley, former president and CEO of Toronto-based Fusepoint, what was challenging about the RewardStream migration was removing all known vulnerabilities, such as potential entry points for hackers and viruses, in Linux before implementation could be done.

“[What] we have done as a company is build a proprietary version of Linux where we hardened the O/S and removed all the vulnerabilities. Linux is open source and has more vulnerabilities and it takes a fairly significant effort,” Offley said. In addition to removing all vulnerabilities, Fusepoint also had to make sure RewardStream’s custom code would work in the Linux environment and its applications would stilll run and perform the same, if not better, in the new environment.

“One of the key things RewardStream was looking for from FusePoint was this ability to be always available and always secure,” Offley said.

RewardStream migrated to Fusepoint’s own secure build Linux product in the middle of last year and took about six months to complete the move. Part of Kok’s challenge was to ensure the different servers were configured properly so only certain servers talked to each other. As well, each RewardStream client was migrated slowly over to Linux, which took quite a bit of time.

Since moving over to Linux, Kok has seen improvements in uptime and the ability to be live continuously thanks to Fusepoint’s network and server redundancy. This was not happening with Solaris due to compability issues and issues with general maintenance of the operating system. Offley added other benefits to Linux include cost reduction, modularity and scalability.

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