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Car rental agency modernizes servers, Linux software

By Rodney Gedda
February 5, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld Australia - SYDNEY, Australia -- Aging Linux and Unix systems have prompted car rental company Thrifty Inc. to modernize its server platforms and direct investment towards more innovative applications.

Thrifty's IT manager Michael Morton said the transformation initiative began about eight months ago when its Red Hat Linux and SCO Unix systems were becoming outdated.

"All servers were falling behind, and we were hit by a rootkit [exploit] two years ago, and that was a catalyst for wanting things to be up-to-date as possible," Morton said.

Thrifty's in-house Linux administrator did not have the skills to overcome some of the problems the company had, so it contracted Sydney-based open-source consultancy Solutions First to spearhead to modernization project.

"We wanted to get the car-rental system, Cars Plus, onto a new set of servers," Morton said. "In doing so, we looked at Solutions First, and one of its recommendations was to move away from Red Hat to Ubuntu Linux, which we did."

The Cars Plus reporting software, IQ Reports, was no longer supported as of the Linux kernel Version 2.4 releases, so Solutions First did some "fancy footwork" to enable it to run on Kernel 2.6 systems.

With Linux and Unix making up about 70% of the server infrastructure and the remainder being on Windows, Morton said there is no clear migration path for Cars Plus, but IQ Reports will be replaced with a more modern reporting mechanism.

Another part of the car-rental system architecture is SCO Unix, which is used for printing management.

To overcome this dependency, Solutions First developed software to convert raw text to HTML, which is then converted to a form where it is printed at Thrifty's 48 branches. Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) is now being used for print serving.

"We have one more step to do, which is to get rid of UUCP to transfer data to and from the Thrifty network," Morton said. "SCO will be out by the end of February, and we can then use the WAN instead of dial-up."

Thrifty will now turn its attention to adding more value to the business by upgrading its Web site, also on Red Hat, and its intranet.

"We have had a very good experience with Linux and open source and are looking to assess it more this year in terms of CRM and our intranet," Morton said, adding by the end of the financial year, all the server work will be completed.

Thrifty's messaging infrastructure is powered by CommuniGate Pro on Linux, and its desktops are either Windows 2000 or XP with Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook and Office.

Morton will assess the newly released Windows Vista in time, but it has already arrived preloaded on some new notebooks.

Reprinted with permission from Computerworld Australia Story copyright 2012 Computerworld New Australia. All rights reserved.
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