Teachers Union Turns to Open Source

The United Federation of Teachers embraces open-source technology for its enterprise systems.

A major teachers union is looking to open-source technology to move its enterprise systems and its members to a new non-proprietary platform that the union will control completely.

The New York-based United Federation of Teachers, a 150,000-member teachers union for New York Citys teachers in the citys five boroughs and 1,300 schools, announced the move Monday, said Bill Stamatis, Web content manager for UFT. UFT moved from a Windows- and AS/400-based solution to an open-source solution.

Also on Monday, UFT announced the relaunch of its public Web site, including a new content management system, bulk e-mail delivery, an online database, news delivery, and benefits and services for its constituency.

"UFT has taken a pretty significant step forward, particularly as it has embraced open-source software," said Juan Proano, president and co-founder of Plus Three LP, the New York-based consulting firm UFT tapped to upgrade its systems. Plus Three specializes in using open-source technology and working with "large organizations with large data challenges," Proano said. Last year, the company delivered a database of voters and donors for the Democratic National Committee.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about how Plus Threes technology was used in the DNCs campaign operations.

"One of the considerations was that wed own everything when the system was done," Stamatis said. "Its open source mostly. We didnt want to be hobbled by something that was proprietary. Past iterations were based on proprietary technology and everything had to go through the consultant—that turned us off," he said.

Aaron Ross, vice president of technology at Plus Three, said the company used Red Hat Enterprise Linux on a cluster of Intel servers, wrote applications on top of the Apache Web server, and used the Perl language to create applications and Java and Web services to integrate legacy systems with the new technology. Plus Three also used the open-source Krang Web publishing system as the content management system for the UFT site, Ross said.

"We put together a foundation they can extend upon," Proano said, noting that UFT is planning to put in an online registration and payment system for professional development courses.

Proano said unions are typically "far behind the curve in adopting technology, but we have set a precedent for other large organizations to see the potential of open source."

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