In the hopes of gaining more control over their infrastructure, more university IT administrators are accelerating plans to migrate to open-source technology in the data center.
George Washington University, for one, is in the process of removing Microsoft Corp. technology from its data centers and replacing it with Linux, primarily because of the cost and burden of security patching, said David Swartz, CIO at GWU, in Washington. Swartz spoke at a ComNet Conference & Expo panel last week.
“Were doing this as soon as possible. I want it done in three months, which translates to about one year,” Swartz said. “A lot of my folks would like to drive more and more toward open source.”
Improved security is the main motivation for the migration to Linux, Swartz said. However, the change will likely coincide with fiscal interests as well. In the last couple of years, a tight budget has forced GWU, like most organizations, to take a more critical look at IT projects than it did in the 1990s. Swartz said he decided the university should approach technology as an enterprise does: with an emphasis on return on investment.
To be sure, open source is not uncommon in university data centers, but not all campuses are moving to embrace it quickly, either. At Cornell University, IT decisions are decentralized, resulting in a mixture of technologies throughout the campus, said Kevin Baradet, network systems director at Cornells S.C. Johnson School of Management, in Ithaca, N.Y.
“Some colleges [at Cornell] are in the process of switching from one technology to the other, but theres no overarching university policy,” said Baradet, who is an eWEEK Corporate Partner. “There are Linux vulnerabilities as well as Windows vulnerabilities, so pick your poison.”
At Cornell, a technology is chosen primarily to meet the interests of the subset of students it serves. “We provide our students with exposure to business practices that theyre likely to see in the business world,” Baradet said, explaining that Microsoft technology is predominant in the management school. “We have no particular religion about it. Its whatever works best for us.”
The flexibility extends beyond infrastructure to the desktop. In the physics and engineering labs, Linux desktops arent uncommon, and a number of people on campus are advocating a move to OpenOffice.org, Baradet said.