HARDMETAL KNIVES PILOTS ON A COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE LINUX BUT OPTS FOR WINDOWS SERVER 2003 FOR DATABASE UPGRADE
“We felt uncomfortable and did not have the confidence to migrate to the Linux platform. We have no regrets staying on the Windows platform. We are assured of an advanced yet easy to manage, and cost effective system.”Tan Lip Kee, Managing Director, Hardmetal Knives Sdn Bhd.
Malaysian toolings manufacturer Hardmetal Knives Sdn Bhd manufactures toolings for the woodworking, paper and engineering industries. When Hardmetal Knives wanted to upgrade the database running its integrated business solution, it seriously considered migrating to the Linux platform. The company wanted to confirm if operating on the Linux platform would be more cost-effective than on Microsoft Windows.
In a pilot project, it deployed a database running on a commercially supported enterprise Linux distribution. However, the deployment ran into various difficulties, prompting Hardmetal Knives to scrap the idea of migrating to Linux. It decided to stick to Microsoft Windows, smoothly deploying the upgraded database on several new servers running Windows Server 2003.
Some 30 years ago, Malaysian toolings manufacturer Hardmetal Knives Sdn Bhd started life as a saw service company sharpening saws for the local sawmilling industry.
In the intervening years, it has grown way beyond its humble roots. Hardmetal Knives and its group of companies now manufacture over 50 product categories of toolings for the woodworking, paper and engineering industries. Producing over 10,000 items, the company is probably the only toolings manufacturer with such a wide product range in this region.
It is also one of the earliest companies in Malaysia to venture into the manufacturing of tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) toolings. It has achieved international recognition for the quality of their products which are exported to countries such as Japan, Germany, United States and the rest of Western Europe.
To help it gain a competitive edge, Hardmetal Knives has invested substantial resources into information technology. “We continuously upgrade our information systems to ensure that we can keep up with our increasing sales volumes and product range,” says Hardmetal Knives Managing Director Tan Lip Kee.
The company has fully computerized its processes starting from sales orders, designing, manufacturing, invoicing, accounting, purchasing, and inventory to customer service.
These functions are handled by a Microsoft Windows-based integrated solution running on a commercial database.
When the time came for the company to upgrade its database, it seriously considered the idea of moving to the Linux platform. “We wanted to find out if the Linux platform would be beneficial for our IT operations and business.
“We also heard that running on the Linux platform would be more cost-effective than Windows,” explains Tan.
To test out this proposition, Hardmetal Knives decided in late 2003 to embark on a pilot project to deploy a database running on a commercially supported enterprise Linux distribution.
The company assigned their internal IT team to handle the project, and from the start, things did not go according to plan. “They ran into various problems and could not get the system running smoothly,” says Tan.
For example, the system was not stable and kept crashing. “We had to re-install it three to four times,” he explains.
Another major problem faced was the lack of Linux-based drivers for hardware. In the case of Hardmetal Knives, it had trouble getting network cards to work as the Linux-version drivers were not available.
It finally took Hardmetal Knives about two weeks before they could iron out all the kinks in the system. “Two weeks to set up a database is just too long,” he adds.
Hardmetal Knives found that the Linux platform was certainly not as user friendly as Windows. According to Tan, the self-help approach of the Linux platform was not particularly helpful given that his IT staff were not familiar with the platform.
For example, getting software documentation on the Linux operating system was not a straightforward affair. Tan says that his IT team could not find online the documentation for the version of the Linux OS it was installing.
“We found documentation for other versions but not the one that we wanted,” Tan says.
Without the proper documentation, the deployment process became even more difficult as the IT team had to work on a “trial and error-basis” to resolve problems arising. Tan concludes that Linux’s self-help concept was, in reality, a rather painful process for his staff.
After the evaluation period, Hardmetal Knives scrapped the idea of migrating to the Linux platform. “After consulting with our IT staff, we felt uncomfortable and did not have the confidence to migrate to the Linux platform,” he adds.
“We encountered some problems during the pilot project. Assuming we did migrate to Linux, we were uncertain if these and other problems would crop up three months or six months down the road,” he explains, adding this was a risk the company did not want to take as its core business processes are linked to its IT systems.
Hardmetal Knives then decided to stick to Microsoft Windows, a tried and trusted platform in which it had a great deal of confidence in.
The company’s IT staff deployed the upgraded database on several new servers running Windows Server 2003. “It was completed in less than a day! That’s a big difference compared to deploying it on Linux,” adds Tan.
Compared to its experience with the commercially supported enterprise Linux distribution, Hardmetal Knives’ database upgrade on Windows’ latest server platform was a piece of cake.
“The migration was smooth and we have had no problems since then. The fact that our IT staff could set up the database in less than a day is testament to the user-friendliness of the Windows platform,” he point out.
“We have had no problems with hardware drivers and the proper documentation and manuals are provided. There’s no need for our IT team to search frantically for these things,” Tan says.
The IT team’s familiarity with the Windows platform coupled with the first-rate manuals and resources available online for Windows Server 2003 contributed to the smooth deployment process.
Supports Business Growth
By sticking to Windows, Hardmetal Knives has the confidence that its core IT systems is running on a stable, scalable and robust platform which ensures the continuity of its business operations.
“Each month, we produce over a thousand types of products. Because IT plays such an important role in our daily operations, we cannot afford to have any downtime.
“Apart from periodic maintenance, the new system virtually runs on a 24 x 7 basis. We have had no problems so far and this has vindicated our decision to stick to the Windows platform,” Tan says.
“In a highly competitive business environment, not only is it vital that we get our systems up and running straightaway, it must also be stable and reliable,” he adds.
Cost Effective, Value for Money
Tan says Hardmetal Knives initially thought it could save some money on licensing by moving to an Open Source platform.
However, it then realized that whatever savings gained, if any, would evaporate if the system was not stable or robust. “Any down time, would result in serious losses to the company,” he states.
The company also discovered it was a fallacy that the total cost of ownership under the Linux platform was lower than that of Windows. “If we wanted to move it to the reliability that Windows is providing, we probably have to pay substantially more. That being the case, what’s the point of moving to Linux?” he asks.
Tan came to this conclusion after factoring in the higher cost of setting up a Linux system, higher support costs, and the additional IT resources to manage a less user-friendly platform.
On the other hand, he points out that Windows-based expertise is widely available, the support costs lower, and the platform is easy to manage.
“We have no regrets staying on the Windows platform. We are assured of an advanced yet easy to manage, and cost effective system,” he concludes.
Last Updated: Friday, December 06, 2005