Tourism Calgary bucks Linux

As a former Novell NetWare and GroupWise user, Tourism Calgary’s decision to standardize its network on Microsoft Corp. technology was based on the IT manager’s belief that Linux isn’t quite ready for prime-time.

Tourism Calgary is a non-profit destination marketing organization that supports the city’s $1 billion tourism industry. This includes feature attractions such as the recent Calgary Stampede, an event that is a huge draw with the city with 1.5 million visitors annually.

During events like the Stampede, Tourism Calgary staff members are constantly out of the office and require always-on email access and a network with minimal downtime. A huge scale event such as the Stampede greatly affects the IT system.

Novell is promoting the use of Linux everywhere, according to Tourism Calgary’s IT manager Paul Scheirick.

However he adds that the organization just wasn’t ready to make the transition to open source and a Linux-based server operating system.

The organization started integrating BlackBerry devices into the network and discovered that the only synchronization option was a third party application which, according to Scheirick, had limited functionality. “It kept going down…which led to frustration for users.”

Also, the organization was becoming frustrated with e-mail functionality and the inability to create group e-mail aliases within GroupWise. Tourism Calgary, Scheirick said, sought to use group e-mail aliases as a means to properly distribute and protect client data. Before, if someone left Tourism Calgary and went to a different job, their sales data often went with them, he said. “Now we can keep that name or alias name.”

Tourism Calgary decided in 2005 to standardize on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. The organization’s legacy environment included Novell NetWare 6.5 and GroupWise and four ProLiant dual-processor servers.

Currently, the main server is running Exchange and a SQL server that’s running Microsoft Dynamics Navision.

Novell seems to be moving users over to Linux, Scheirick said. “We were pretty Novell entrenched but concerned about continued support for NetWare.”

He said Tourism Calgary is also currently testing visitor kiosks that feature VoIP-enabled phones at key locations such as the local airport. These kiosks, he said, would also have an impact on the overall network.

“I have no Linux background — I’ve grown up in a Windows world and am used to the GUI. Exchange was simply a more attractive offering and a better fit for the organization.”

Linux-based vendors such as Novell are acutely aware that users may not be comfortable making the switch. In Tourism Calgary’s case, Scheirick said it was simply a matter of being unfamiliar with Linux and being not yet willing to move to open source.

In a recent Network World interview, Novell CTO Jeffrey Jaffe noted that the firm is committed to Linux and is taking a pragmatic approach to migration. The next six months, Jaffe said, is an important time for the industry when it comes to choosing between Windows and Linux.

“What we’re telling folks…is that if you’re going to make such an important decision, you should have an in-depth knowledge of the fact that for the first time there really is choice. There really is an alternative.”

Users should be looking to develop a Linux pilot project to determine if the technology is a good fit, Jaffe said. “You can run either NetWare or Linux as the OS. We’re telling [customers] to go do your pilots, tell us what we need to do to improve product, then you do your full migrations and rollouts….any operating system takes multiple years to do that [kind of transition].”

But Scheirick believes that switching to Microsoft made the network more reliable, and increased interoperability with mobile devices. The firm was initially concerned with Windows security issues but is coping better than expected, Scheirick said.

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