U.S. Postal Service Gives Stamp of Approval To FOSS
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U.S. Postal Service Gives Stamp of Approval To FOSS
by Lisa Hoover - Jul. 10, 2009Comments (36)
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has switched 1,300 of the servers that manage its package tracking system to a Linux environment. The move has taken the better part of a year since all the original system code was written in Cobol and had to be converted for Linux -- a less expensive option than rewriting it altogether. The migration is a part of a larger plan to standardize on open source software to lower operating costs and increase the number of transactions the system can handle. The USPS currently manages over 40 million transactions every day, from tracking priority mail to shipping packages for customers at local post offices. Though the USPS won't discuss exact figures on how the cost savings of moving from a Sun Solaris environment to Hewlett-Packard, it's clearly substantial. Postal Service representative John Byrne told Government Computer News, “We’re achieving significant savings moving from the Sun to the HP environment — obviously not as materially as the IBM proprietary environment to Linux because the mainframe has had the higher cost to begin with and farther to fall.” In today's sagging economy and economic downturn, its good to see the U.S. Government tightening its belt and cutting costs by using open source software to help curb spending. Although there are opposing viewpoints on the use of open source in government, FOSS is making significant headway and may be on the road to winning the race.
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36 Comments
 
by an anonymous user on Jul. 10, 2009US Postal is a case study in inefficiency when compared to its peer group. It keeps optimizing its current offerings by cutting costs but has done NOTHING innovative in the last decade while companies like FedEx and UPS don't look anything like they did 10 years ago.
Much need step but need to do a lot more before they're out of the woods...
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by Bryan Y on Jul. 14, 2009The cost savings has nothing to do open source software (Solaris is also open source). It's all about switching from expensive SPARC systems to cheap intel boxes.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009Solaris is NOT open Source.
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by Jason D on Jul. 14, 2009Bryan Y -
Perhaps, but then why wouldn't they simply run their existing application on Solaris x86 instead of porting it to Linux?
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009Solaris is NOT open Source.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009What about forever stamps?
http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=...
Those are new and who else has them?
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009I agree with Brian Y, the cost of moving from Sparc based processors is the big cost saving. But why not tell us if moving to Sun X86 hardware would have been the best value since there would have been minor reprograming to move the code from a Sparc based system to X86 hardware running Solaris.
Solaris(support isn't) is free and runs on X86 hardware, the software they run is proprietary to the post office so I don't see what "cost savings" they are seeing on moving to FOSS.
What where the two bids for hardware and time to migrate the code to from Solaris to Linux. Show us what the cost would have been to move from Sparc to X86 running Linux. This article doesn't say anything that would support the cost effectiveness of moving from one OS to the other. Only thing as Brian stated is that they went from Sparc processors to Intel, and that's a no brainier that you will see less significant up front costs and improvements in performance by moving from Sparc to Intel.
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by John Davis on Jul. 14, 2009Wow, now why am I not surprised!
RT
www.privacy.cz.tc
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by soumynona on Jul. 14, 2009Hmmmmmm...... It seems that there are two points here.
1. saving money now
2. saving money later
by having the ability to call upon the vast resource of the Linux support communities, there is a HUGE potential savings, regardless of the brand hardware used. A recompile from source with some minor tweaking really is less expensive. using standardized hardware that is readily available from any number of vendors just makes sense. part broke? run to wally world!
Why reinvent the wheel?? just improve it.
Hell, I would have probably used refurbished equipment for an even bigger savings.
Oh, and one more,
K.I.S.S.
It does work.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009cutting costs is inefficient?
The better argument is the post office fails to examine its processes and its purpose. It shouldn't try to replicate ups and fedex, instead offer lower costs and reliable service. All post office packages should include delivery confirmation as a matter of policy. Parcel post should be revamped as "Economy mail", many letters and packages dont need to be there in 2 days or even 5 days but they do need a guaranteed delivery-by date.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009Why don't these jokers get a big IBM z mainframe? A new z/10 wouldn't even blink with only 1,300 Linux sessions, under z/VM.
And it's a Cobol system? Sheesh, Cobol was always king of the hill on the mainframe. Before the PC, there were more lines of Cobol code than any other language, by a large margin. And I'm sure it's still one of the most used, in production, languages on big iron today.
Plus mainframe Cobol can use the CICS API. CICS was the original "client / server" system, and many people, like me, think it is still the best C/S system on the planet today.
Recent studies have shown that a single z mainframe provides the same processing power as an entire "server farm", racks and racks of "PC based" servers.
And it does it using about 10% of the power, 10% of the air conditioning, 10% of the "network infrastructure", and it IS CHEAPER, in the long run.
This application sounds like a natural for a z, but I forgot, this is the .gov we're talking about.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009The fact that they won't release any numbers detailing the cost savings means they are hiding something significant. Why wouldn't a government agency be open to doing so if they have saved money? And then there's the ever-increasing cost of postage, which seems to be more frequent, meaning they aren't saving as much as they'd like everyone to believe. If they really want to get serious about it, start canning all of the lazy dead weight hanging around in favor of people that have at least a little sense of urgency about their jobs. Many of the route walkers are great... a few are not. It's the backend that seems to suck up the bulk of the momentum. I'm tired of only one window open and two employees behind the counter gossiping about their co-workers. LInux is good... but apparently not good enough to get anyone fired that sorely needs it...
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009Why not have it on one big machine? If it is like i suspect, those machines are spread all around the country in a distributed enviornment. They likely do not have the comms to support a single location.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009One big machine = single point of failure. Bad, bad, bad idea.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009Don't forget that Fedex and UPS accept ONLY packages that have BAR CODED addresses on them. That is, a cheap ceiling mounted scanner and WYSE terminal next to a conveyor belt can be used to track packages. The USPS can handle items smaller than FedEx labels (think postcards) and allows you to handwrite the addresses. Some serious processing power is necessary for a computer to reliably OCR this 100% of the time.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 14, 2009> Solaris is NOT open Source.
ever hear of OpenSolaris nubcakes?
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009The postal service has to save all of this money on hardware because they insist on dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into Accenture for buggy work.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009Solaris is not Open Source, nor Free Software - it is proprietary UNIX as defined by its license. OpenSolaris on the other hand is Open Source, but only supported by one company, Sun Microsystems, who have recently been purchased by Oracle and may phase out Solaris altogether.
While I can only speculate, I highly doubt the USPS was running any software on OpenSolaris. Speculation might be backed up by the fact that there has been very little adoption of OpenSolaris.
So the move from a proprietary OS to a Free OS (GNU/Linux) and the removal of concomitant licensing fees is unquestionably a source of "significant" savings.
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by Larry on Jul. 15, 2009Solaris is NOT OpenSolaris nubcakes
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009Innovative government? Oksymoron :)
I still don't know what I am paying taxes for.
Just to feed stupid people who cannot earn money.
I guess that if USPS will file for bankruptcy, government will give a bailout.
Just to save workspace for idiots.
Damn it.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009LOL - how amusing and ironic that the anti-government rant posted above is posted on the INTERNET. Where do you think the internet came from genuis? And please do not confuse the internet with the world-wide-web.
Do you imagine that any profit-at-all-costs, competitive-barrier-erecting, patent-trolling, private company would EVER in a million years dream up a system like the internet, or GPS satellites, or roads, or water, or myriad other systems that parasites such as yourself take for granted?
How long would you survive with the cosseting of the government? I agree that in the case of the USPS, it has probably outlived its usefulness. The only thing I receive via postal delivery is junk mail, and my building provides a convenient recycling bin for that.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009I'm going to have to disagree on the mainframe being cheaper. Buying a mainframe is insanely expensive. We've been trying to dump ours for years. You get charged for absolutely every little thing, and software licensing for it is just outrageous.
Many things that come standard on other platforms cost extra on a mainframe. Like encryption, for example. That's another $18K per year alone. Scheduling package like CA7- Another $240K+ per year. Change management, like Endeavor... Another $120K+ per year. If you decide you need to use more MIPS from your existing processors- Pull out your wallet. Want to do SSH or SFTP? Better have the latest version of CICS and some more cash for licensing.
Need storage for that mainframe? Your limited to Escon or Ficon connectivity, as well as very expensive disk systems like Symmetrix or Fujitsu. Want to do traditional disk to disk backups? VTS will cost you another half million at least. Print management? Another $18K per year.
The list goes on and on. By the way, these costs are on a "small" mainframe. I cringe to think what it would cost on a fairly large one like USPS would need.
As far as realizing a cost savings by moving from SPARC to "less expensive" x86 systems goes... The article says they are moving to HP systems. HP is just as expensive as Sun when it comes to hardware. They're solid systems, but I don't see much of a save there. But, every environment is different, so who knows? The save could be based on something about the software itself. Perhaps they're gaining new features with the upgrade, or maybe they'll be able to reduce head count.
Either way, I wish them luck. It sounds like a fun project.
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by b0101 on Jul. 15, 2009Solaris IS! Open Source.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009Sounds like HP marketing pitch. Solaris or Linux, they still need a support contract. They could have gone from sparc to x86 and still kept Sun hardware and software. Not knowing the h/w specs, they probably saved money going from a enterprise class system to a plain jane x86 to a free OS with no support... hope nothing breaks!! Mainframe-z/enterprise stuff is expensive, but you are playing for uptime and speed.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009OMG I stumbled upon the nerds R us chatroom. USPS is not funded by tax dollars, stupid. That happened before you geniuses were born.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009@anonymous user (single point of failure)
The thing is that a Z server does NOT go down. Five 9's of reliability is very common on these machines.
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by Mike O. on Jul. 15, 2009Very confusing article...no idea of what platform switch was made, nor what software was employed on the new platform. The mention of COBOL makes me think they switched from mainframe to c/s.
I have helped 2 major companies perform that switch in the last few years, and it ends up with 1) thrilled user community 2) less expense 3) less security and 4) less reliability.
There were versions of COBOL written for c/s usage, so it may have been a two step switch. COBOL to c/s COBOL to whatever.
Most companies rewrite from scratch, which is probably a good thing. A lot of functionality in mainframe apps becomes irrelevant over the years, porting it function for function without at least conferring with users would be a huge mistake.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009>ever hear of OpenSolaris nubcakes?
OpenSolaris is OpenSourced software system. Solaris altough has own licenses. Both are running the same open source operating system called SunOS. The SunOS is the OS what both runs, Solaris and OpenSolaris. SunOS is monolith kernel like Linux and is as free operating system. Sun even has released Solaris on 2003. It just has own license.
And there is not such OS as GNU/Linux. The GNU/Linux is the development platform and not the operating system. Development platform is OS + development tools and system libraries. GNU has nothing to do with Linux OS. GNU's own OS called Hurd is totally forgotten and RSM wants that GNU would get all the respect from the Linux.
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by Randy Clark on Jul. 15, 2009Color me impressed. I need to revise the bumper sticker that said "God made creatures that creep and crawl but the USPS beats them all!!!"
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009And there is not such OS as GNU/Linux. The GNU/Linux is the development platform and not the operating system. Development platform is OS + development tools and system libraries. GNU has nothing to do with Linux OS. GNU's own OS called Hurd is totally forgotten and RSM wants that GNU would get all the respect from the Linux.
Ever heard of debian?
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009where I work, we have both sun/sparc systems and various x86 systems. the sparc boxes cost more out of the gate, but hardware wise they have been much more reliable than the x86 hardware. and that is only at the hardware level. I won't go into the solaris/unix vs windows debate that goes on around here....
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 15, 2009>And there is not such OS as GNU/Linux
You are right, if you mean the Kernel only,
which isnt any good by itself.
RMS's point is about the distribution (Linux kernel + multitudes of GNU tools), and as such, should be referred to as "GNU/Linux".
He cant say anything about the kernel,
since his team didnt spend years developing it.
Hard not to see his point.
Most of what makes a GNU/Linux distribution do anything useful, is the tools (shell's, login command, GNU Libc and many more)
Try "rm /lib/glibc.so*", and see how many apps will run.
That's probably GNU's most impressive works,
the GNU Libc.
Why not give credit where credit is due?
The kernel itself (Linux is it's name) has nothing to do with GNU.
And he has not said a word about the kernel.
Then again, without GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), there would be no Linux kernel either.
My point is, get your facts straight, before typing anything.
If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 16, 2009R: anonymous user on Jul. 10, 2009
If the USPS is so inefficient, and UPS is so much more efficient, why is it that the USPS handles the majority of UPS's small package deliveries?
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 16, 2009Who else has "Forever" stamps? Well, I bought something similar in Canada last winter. Now if I could only remember where I stored them when I need to send a letter....
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by an anonymous user on Jul. 16, 2009What about forever stamps?
http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=...
Those are new and who else has them?
0 Votes
by El Spamolito on Oct. 22, 2009thank god they created forever stamps. Those 1 cent stamps were pretty annoying.
0 Votes
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