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Finding China, Crystal, and Tableware With Linux

A Humble Start

  • October 3, 2006
  • By Rob Reilly

Replacements, Ltd. has carved a niche market out of locating and selling hard-to-find china, crystal, and silver tableware and collectibles.

Nearly half of the company's seven million retail customers place orders through the call center, The other half do business over the Web. Orders are filled from an 11 million plus item inventory comprised of more than 250,000 patterns. The company also handles current and active patterns, obtained directly from manufacturers.

Computer technology has been a key factor from the very beginning. As you would expect, Linux now plays a major role in keeping the company's data straight.

Bob Page quit his job as an auditor for the state of North Carolina and started the company 25 years ago in his basement and attic. People questioned his decision. Replacements, Ltd. is now the world's largest retailer of discontinued and active dinnerware.

At first, Page tracked customers orders through thousands of 3x5 index cards. In 1984, he took the company high tech with proprietary Data General computers running the AOS/VS operating system, the INFOS database, and applications developed in DG Cobol.

In 1995, they moved to Unix (on the Data General AViiON hardware line) running DGUX. With the switch, they ported the database over to Oracle. DG clustering protected the database and server-based applications, while also providing high availability. Over time, in classic client/server fashion the client GUI eventually ran on Windows machines, developed under PowerBuilder.

2002 marked a Replacements move over to Solaris (on Sunfire hardware) with Veritas (now Symantec) for the server/cluster side.

By 2003, Replacements had started considering Linux. Although SUSE was considered, Red Hat eventually got the nod. The Replacements IT team felt that Red Hat's professional support and annual delivery cycle differentiated it from other vendors. In Replacements high-volume transaction environment, avoiding downtime was an absolute priority.

Jim Meredith, Replacements Manager of Information Technology, said that convincing the CIO that Linux had the performance and stability to run their business took quite a bit of work, but he ultimately became the strongest advocate.

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