Setting up IT ops using Ubuntu – dream come true

Recently, I had an opportunity to setup IT operations for a company with 145 employees. The organization is a young company and is growing quite well. They just moved into one single office, consolidating their 4 offices within the same city. With a new office setup and disparate systems coming in from 4 different offices, there was a challenge of creating a uniform computing experience.

Having met up with the owners, I realized that whatever business they did, none of their employees needed programming languages. It was a back office operations, with work mostly involving word processing, some spread sheets, obviously browsing and emailing. The finance team was using a legacy finance suite. Once I understood business, it was a no brainer for me as I could easily demonstrate the cost savings that could be brought about, by migrating to Ubuntu for a uniform computing experience.

I setup a 10 computer lab and invited the owners and some senior folks in their company to demonstrate what I wanted to do. It took some convincing, but after 10 days of hard work, they agree dot do a pilot for 20 people team that was assigned on one single project. I set it up and after 45 days , the team gave a go-ahead for Ubuntu desktops. There were obviously some challenges in adopting Libre office, but I was motivated to sit and help them adopt Libre office and migrate away from Microsoft Office. With some sleepless nights on some weird spreadsheet requirements to be fulfilled using Libre Office, we were finally able reach a consensus that the Ubuntu was the way forward. There were obviously some extra smarty guys who recommended some other distros, but I was able to shoot it down successfully, not because I dont like any other distro, but from a uniform experience, maintenance, it would be far better to have everyone use Ubuntu.

The day came when we finally got to start the project. We got the company to purchase some big monitors 22″ Dells and wireless mouse and keyboards. The technology and infrastructure blueprint was as follows.

Desktop Computing

Out of 145 employees – 120 were desktops and 25 were laptops. We got the company to buy 120 SSDs (30 GB each for running the OS) for superior performance. They were happy to do that as they said it would force employees to store all the data on the central file server than storing them on local machines. It was a win-win situation for both of us. Finally the desktops were Dell Vostros with 4 GB RAM, Intel i3 or i5 processors and in some cases there were assembled AMD desktops with FX 3100 processors. Each of the desktop had 22 inch monitors and wireless keyboards and mouse. The laptop environment was even more complex. They had Dell Latitudes, Vostros, HP Envy, Sony, Acer – all  kinds and brands of laptops with varying screen sizes. I was unable to convince them to throw off all the laptops and everyone standardized on one single model :). It was asking for too much.

We decided to have standard images and decided what software should we standardize as part of the image. We sat with the stakeholders and their IT manager and following was the list of standard software we bundled.

  1. Ubuntu 12.04 64 bit OS
  2. Libre Office 4.2 with Base included
  3. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome with Hangouts plugin
  4. Jitsi
  5. Skype
  6. Thunderbird
  7. VLC
  8. Gimp on 43 desktops
  9. Evernote

With this we created images and got to work. It took us more than 2 days to perfect the image with some sample desktop implementations and have it rolled out. Once the implementation started it was a breeze and we could roll it out quickly. This was the first time, I was doing something like this at this scale. So it was a little trial and error. Now I can roll out even in 10000 desktops environment with ease :). With desktops done, it was time for me to get the datacenter running. I chose following services. The company had about 6 servers with decent specifications. One of them was a mail server. I was able to convince them to move the email services to the cloud and re-deploy the mail server hardware for some thing else. They agreed :)

I decided to use the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS server edition for implementing the infrastructure. I deployed following services

  1. Server 1:   4 core Intel server, 8 GB RAM, 2 x 160 GB hard disks in RAID 1
    1. DHCP
    2. DNS
    3. OpenLDAP Server
  2. Server 2:   8 core Intel Server, 16 GB RAM, 6 x 300 GB hard disks in RAID 5
    1. Squid Proxy Server
    2. Openfire XMPP Chat Server
    3. WordPress as Corporate Intranet Server
    4. Moodle
    5. Ubuntu update mirror
  3. Server 3:   8 core Intel Server, 16 GB RAM, 6 x 1 TB hard disks in RAID 5
    1. Samba File Server
    2. OCS Inventory
    3. Orange HRMS – quite basic stuff, but useful for this setup
    4. Backup server with Dell TL 2000 tape library
  4. Server 4:   4 core Intel Server, 8 GB RAM, 4 x 300 GB hard disks in RAID 5
    1. MySQL Database as central database server
  5. Server 5:   4 core Intel server, 8 GB RAM
    1. Java based internal application for managing projects, time and invoicing, expenses etc managed by a third party vendor
  6. Server 6:   4 core Intel server, 8 B RAM – Windows 2008 r2 :(
    1. Financial Accounting software
    2. Payroll software

The whole project took me about 3 weeks to go-live. There were obviously some teething problems, but it was one of the most satisfying experiences in my life. It was one of those projects which gave me the reward for believing that something like this could happen. Finally the cost savings that could be achieved using this environment. These are approximate savings on licenses but one could easily argue

  1. Desktop or Laptop OS – 145 x INR 7,500 = INR 10,87,500 (US $ 17,827)
  2. Microsoft Office – 145 x INR 15,000 = INR 21, 75,000 (US $ 35,655)
  3. Microsoft Lync – 1 x INR 30,000 (US $ 500)
  4. Sharepoint – INR 250,000 (US $ 4,000)
  5. MS SQL – INR 1,200,000 (Core Based Standard edition) (US $ 20,000)
  6. Client Access Licenses
    1. Windows – 145 x INR 1,200 = INR 1,74,000 (US $ 2,850)
    2. Sharepoint – 145 x INR 4,000 = INR 5,80,000 (US $ 9,500)
    3. Lync – 145 x INR 5,000 =  INR 7,25,000 (US $ 11,900)
  7. Anti-virus Software – 145 x INR 2000 = INR 2,90,000 (US $ 4,700)

Total Cost saving – INR 65,11,000 (US $ 100,000)

Give or take it is easily a cost saving of INR 50,00,000 ( US $ 90,000). Imagine what could be achieved using this money. You could hire two more people :)

Happy to receive your comments. Please write constructive feedback.

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