Images are 95px by 95px50% lower investment. 80% faster. Up to $10k per year savings. Numbers like that might get your attention, especially in today’s market. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the number of jobless Americans neared 15 million this year. While it seems things are beginning to improve, cost-cutting and productivity are still very front-of-mind for many business managers and owners. There certainly have been a variety of creative approaches to accomplishing these goals; and, distributors running on Eclipse have recently been buzzing about a new one (that keeps every employee’s job safe): switching to Linux.

The idea of converting from Windows-based IBM servers to UNIX platform servers running Linux software isn’t new. Organizations have been talking about and making the switch to open-source (or free) software of all kinds for the last several years. However, it wasn’t until recently that the economic situation seemed to push Activant to openly support Linux boxes, and create awareness that this was an option. Now, word on the benefits of Linux is spreading quickly and users are taking notice.

Why switch? 4 Solid Reasons.
1. Cost-savings. HGH Hardware Supply, a distributor of kitchen and bath cabinet hardware and woodworking supplies, is a 16-year Eclipse veteran and a recent convert to Linux. The company was halfway through a 5-year $45,000 maintenance contract with IBM on a seven-year-old server that was beginning to fail. They were able to cancel that contract and spend less than the remaining cost to purchase a brand new, faster, larger-capacity server and cover their conversion costs.

Similarly, Fastening Solutions in Alabama wanted to convert to Solar Eclipse; but, needed to spend $100,000 in hardware to do it. Once they found out about Linux, and realized it would instead cost $22,000 in hardware, they were sold.

Mike Winstead, the Controller at Fastening Solutions, said, “Because the box was less expensive, I doubled the specifications required by Eclipse. They wanted me to have two dual-core processors, and I got two quad-core, plus 32G of RAM versus 16. I didn’t want the processors to become obsolete, so I loaded up on the front end.”

Tim Walker, HGH’s Operations Manager, agreed. He said, “For the price of the server and maintenance compared with IBM, I could buy a whole new additional Linux server as a back-up and still save money.”

Tim also noted, “As inexpensive as technology has gotten over the years, IBM’s prices haven’t changed. So it’s great to finally have some options.” He added, “We didn’t have to do a cost benefit analysis [for converting to Linux] because the outstanding contract made it an easy decision. We traded in our IBM contract and got a brand new Linux server for nothing.”

The savings with Linux are realized in a variety of ways: The actual hardware is a great deal less expensive, licensing fees are non-existent, and the maintenance savings are compelling. Meanwhile, the conversion costs are minimal, especially when considering the overall savings.

Both parties we spoke with mentioned that IBM’s customer service is outstanding, and they aren’t sure how their Dell counterparts will compare. They’ve both been running on their new servers for close to six months and have yet to experience any issues that required assistance.

2. Speed and productivity. Sometimes, waiting for Eclipse reports to run can steal precious time from your day; and, server restarts can be a real drain on efficiency. With Linux, it seems that much of this frustration can be reduced; or, in some cases, even eliminated.

Mike at Fastening Solutions said, “We’ve had fewer printing problems and issues since going Linux. Our print queue used to die every now and then and we’d have to restart it. It’s now 75% less of an issue, happening once for every four times before. It’s been better for us.” He also said, “It [Eclipse] runs quick now. It used to take three to five minutes to run a financial statement and now it’s seconds. It’s 80% faster.”

Tim from HGH has experienced similar increases in efficiency. He said, “Monday first thing everyone noticed was how much faster the machine was. A report that might take a day to run is now taking 10 or 15 minutes. Some screens would take a while to refresh and now we had almost no wait time going through screens. It was so fast we had to get out of its way.”

Tim finds this change to have a big impact on productivity. “People were used to the delay and getting lost in where they were with their keystrokes,” he said. “It was like going from a first generation desktop to a new machine. It’s at least 10 times faster and reports are at least 15 times faster than before.” He added, “I used to start reports and have to come back to it later in the day, but now I don’t have any reports that keep me from continuing work on that particular project.”

3. Easy conversion. The idea of a conversion may seem daunting or risky to some people; but, our sources have experienced seamless transitions with very little work or involvement on their end.

“I came in Sunday afternoon and switched cables and that was it,” said Eddie Lewis, the Computer Systems Manager at HGH. “When we came in Monday morning, no one knew anything changed except everything was faster.” He added, “ There was hardly an hour into the conversion on the customer side. There’s nothing about the conversion that we wouldn’t do over again tomorrow.”

Likewise, Mike’s conversion was simple and straight-forward. He said, “Eclipse does the whole conversion process. The only pain point I felt was I had to come down and put a DVD in over the weekend. There was no impact to staff or operations, all of the reports run and everything we had set up automatically works.” When asked about any changes his users had to endure, he said, “The learning curve was short. There were no changes made to our network. The only difference our users knew was that it ran faster.”

4. The future. The companies we interviewed feel like the future is with Linux. Quite notably, it can run Solar. Many Eclipse users are moving away from Eterm; yet, the IBM servers they are running on likely aren’t compatible. Mike from Fastening Solutions feels this is an important point to consider. He said, “We have learned more and more of the benefits and neat things in Solar that can’t be done in Eterm. Every week we’re learning two or three more things we can do in Solar and picking up those productivity gains.”

Another facet of Linux’s future potential for companies is that it’s easily and inexpensively expandable. When asked what the most important aspect of his switch was, Tim from HGH said, “The ability to expand with it. And the fact that Eclipse is going to be fitting all new systems on Linux.”

Finally, Linux-based servers are more in line with the ever-decreasing size of technology devices. Tim said, “This server is much smaller and fits in a rack, versus the several hundred pound IBM.“

To read more reasons to consider converting (not specific to Eclipse), check out this article, “25 Reasons to Convert“.

Lessons Learned
Like any change, there are always opportunities for improvement. Fortunately, you have others to learn from; and, the Linux conversions we’ve referenced involved very few, and only minor, challenges. Tim noted, “The only problem we’ve had is that we have yet to get our refund from IBM. We’re not sure whose fault that is.” He also mentioned, “We did have a few problems initially with add-on products, including the messaging system, VSI-FAX and MITS. It took about three days to fix these with Eclipse, but they weren’t problems that put us dead in the water.” He added, “I don’t think there is anything we could’ve done different to avoid them because we were sort of a test for Eclipse. I doubt they would be a problem for someone now.”

Mike also experienced an initial issue with VSI-FAX, but it was resolved quickly.

Final Thoughts
If you aren’t convinced of the value and benefits of converting to Linux yet, HGH and Fastening Solutions have some parting words for you to consider:

Eddie from HGH declared, “I told someone, ‘you won’t be disappointed [if you switch to Linux]’. I wouldn’t go back to IBM, no way.”

Tim added, “Call me back in a year and maybe I’ll have something negative to say, but not now.”

Mike from Fastening Solutions commented, “I’m well pleased. No pain. Price is lower, speed is faster.”

As always, Zerion is available to be your resource for all of your Eclipse-related services, including advice, consulting, training and more. If you know someone who would like to talk through the benefits of Linux and how it might work for them, be sure to check out our special below.

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4 Responses to Eclipse Hot Topic: Converting to Linux

  1. Jim Lucas says:

    Great article! Does the Solar Eclipse GUI run on Linux workstations as well?

  2. Zerion says:

    Thank you, Jim. Technically, yes, Solar Eclipse GUI will run on Linux workstations, assuming the right version of Java is installed. There are, however, some known issues with slave printing and add-on products. There are also likely some unreported/unknown issues to consider. Please note that Eterm doesn’t work at all on Linux PC’s.

  3. Eterm will work on Linux PC’s if you have WINE installed.
    The only issues I have yet to overcome on Linux is the attachment viewer. Everything else pretty much works out of the box.

  4. Zerion says:

    We were surprised to read your comment about Eterm working on Linux PCs because Eclipse is the one that says it won’t work. However, we were also told it wouldn’t work on Windows CE PDA’s and we were able to make that work. In short, we wouldn’t recommend that most customers try to run Eterm on Linux PC’s, but tech saavy users can probably figure it out.

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