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Boscov's Inches Into Linux - page 2

Moving to Linux, One App at a Time

  • September 4, 2003
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Poole and Schwartz belong to an eight-person tech support team within Boscov's IS department, a larger business unit that currently employs 85 people. Other staffers in the department include DBAs, analysts, project leaders, operations people, and additional support personnel.

"I do the administrative work (for the tech support team), monitor the VM and zOS systems, and generally poke my nose into places where it doesn't belong," quipped Poole.

"We all try to back up one another, pitching in wherever possible. When you do all this with so few people, you have to be cross-trained," Poole added.

The tech support team has also tweaked a number of pre-existing apps to operate on Linux. Boscov's custom "invoice matching" system, for example, is based on software from iMart, Inc, Boscov's uses the DB2-based app to make sure invoices match up with actual truck shipments for the stores.

"We did invoice matching before on AIX. It was easy to unload the software, and then to reload it on to Linux," according to Poole.

Boscov's has also ported MarCole's Java-based gift registry app to Linux. "When you're online, though, you don't know that you're popping over to Linux to use the registry, and then jumping to Windows to make the payment."

Other software already running on SuSE Linux includes IBM Tivoli's NetView, a Radius authentication server; and a Samba file server. Actually, Samba is built into the Radius server, which uses information from Boscov's 80 Cisco routers.

The Linux-based NetView network management system is a replacement for CA-Unicenter, a product previously run at Boscov's on an Intel box. "At first, NetView went out and discovered too much. We don't always really care about Mary's PC, and how it's doing today. So we had to change the discovery parameters," Poole elaborated.

About a year ago, Boscov's started testing Linuxcare's Levanta 2.0 software for Linux/VM systems administration, provisioning, and change management. Schwartz finds Levanta to be especialy helpful in making better use of DASD resources.

"You can share multiple packages with only a single read-only area. Each of the instances, though, has its own read/write area. The binaries and executables can be common, but the configuration files and log files are separate," the programmer said.

Schwartz also likes Levanta's rollback feature. "We can initiate a checkpoint that takes a snapshot of the read/write area. Then, if we need to go back later and make changes to what we've done, we can issue a rollback to that particular point." Boscov's is now in full production with Levanta 2.0.

Also at the moment, Boscov's is experimenting with running the Cobol-based Acucobol integrated development environment (IDE) on Linux at a small satellite store.

Software still running on non-Linux platforms, but destined for Linux sooner or later, includes Boscov's enterprise OLAP server, now operating on AIX, and its PeopleSoft financials, which are still on NT.

"Actually, the bulk of our server farm is still on Windows. There are many proprietary applications that run on NT," Poole acknowledged.

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