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Its beholding on me to state that the views expressed in this piece are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my organisation.


7 Responses to “Running a Service Not a System”

1. ken udas - july 26th, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Dick, First, thank you for this post. I am interested is teasing out connections between your use of OSS, technology strategy, and impact on how the Ufi / learndirect supports learners. Referring back to one of your summary points:

Getting a technology strategy that supports the business and recognizes that once started it’s often expensive to change.

I am wondering if your use of open source software has influenced your technology strategy formally, and if there is any explicit connection in the formal technology strategy and the organization’s strategy involving education services.



2. dick moore - july 29th, 2007 at 5:51 am

Thanks Ken

The except below is taken directly from our Technology Strategy summary

“Service Delivery Platform: Use of open source components such as Apache Web Server and Squid Proxy Server have been core to our service from the beginning. Within the last two years, we have migrated from using Sun Solaris to Redhat Enterprise Linux as our delivery platform. This has provided us with a 95% reduction in cost and has proven to be highly reliable.”

We have similar statements for our Development and Database platforms that all state explicitly the use of Open Source technologies.

In the Uk our Office of Government commerce has over the last few years, suggested that ‘OPEN SOURCE should be actively considered alongside proprietary alternatives’ (External Link)

It’s my contention in the piece above that this it’s not possible to mandate open source if you out-source your IT provision.

At Ufi, as a result of in-sourcing, we have been able to embed opensource within our technology strategy for non-utility applications and as a result have seen significant cost reductions and improvements in service reliability.

Cheers, Dick

3. ken udas - july 29th, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Dick, Hello. I have a few questions and I am not sure where to go first. I guess that I would first like to tease out a little more of your thinking around the connection between supporting individual users that expect a unique experience and using open source software. You started your post by illustrating the importance of system reliability and how you and your team ensure this by recasting the notion of running a “system” into running a “service,” which is supported by excellent monitoring. The need in your context is derived by the challenges of supporting an environment that a) requires customized experiences (there is no place else to go for your learner is the learndirect platform is down, unlike somebody seeking sports scores or news), b) requires high reliability, and c) supports high volume.

You then point to the advantages of in-sourcing these parts of your infrastructure using open source software. Here is my first assertion. It seems that the “customization” criteria in the above mix is most critical, after all, high volume and high reliability are pretty typical reasons to out source. Is that correct? Through your experience, what advantages does OSS potentially provide that proprietary options do not? And, when you are evaluating OSS options, what are some of the evaluation criteria that you prioritize?

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, The impact of open source software on education. OpenStax CNX. Mar 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10431/1.7
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