Kepak plans extensive open-source adoption

18 Aug 2006

Kepak, the food-processing company headquartered in Ireland, is planning to extend its use of open-source software (OSS) to other areas of its business, having implemented a system to control its pan-European network and also put in place an identity-management system.

Working with the IT services group Sirius Corporation, Kepak has implemented several systems using OSS, including an email system to its Irish and UK offices. Later this year, Kepak also intends to move its file and print server function on to an OSS platform called Samba and to begin pilot testing to move away from its legacy PBX phone system to Asterix, which uses open-source voice over IP.

The new identity-management system serves Kepak’s 2,000 employees based around its manufacturing sites in Ireland and the UK, as well as its sales offices in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. This secure platform authenticates Windows users to all network services.

As it is based on OSS, the system is free from any licensing charges, unlike commercial software products. Kepak has also been able to make savings on hardware costs as a result, according to Chris Whelan, IT infrastructure manager at Kepak.

“Rather than having two boxes per facility for a firewall and a mail server, we can run them both on one. The hardware saving was quite large, although hardware is only a fraction of the total spend,” he said.

The reason for choosing an OSS system was that it offered a more flexible alternative to proprietary software, Whelan told “We didn’t like the lock-in,” he said.

There were some technical challenges involved in choosing OSS as the IT team at Kepak initially had little experience of it and had to receive intensive training on the new software. “You have to gain the knowledge and be able to use the software: you need somebody like Sirius to hold your hand,” Whelan said. “The knowledge gained through this has helped us to do Linux projects off our own bat,” he added.

Another advantage is that if Kepak acquires a company or grows organically, the IT department can easily and cost effectively cater for the additional demand. “We could roll out the mail solution to all sites at only the cost of the hardware,” he said.

Kepak is currently in the process of rolling out a system that will remotely store data from every desktop in the company, whereas the previous technology only backed up to tape the data that was stored on servers. The OSS product for this project is called Backup PC.

“Open source is not the answer to everything but for most of the back-office stuff it’s just as good if not better than the commercial software out there,” Whelan concluded.

By Gordon Smith