California city dances to the tune of Linus, Samba

California city dances to the tune of Linus, Samba

Garden Grove opts for scalability of freeware networking, and gets lower costs and better reliability

Trudy Walsh

GCN Staff

The city of Garden Grove, Calif., has a history of reinventing itself.

Founding father Alonzo Cook bought 160 acres of open terrain in 1874 and suggested that the area be named Garden Grove. When some in the community protested that the name didn't describe the treeless area, Cook replied, 'We'll make it appropriate by planting trees.'

That make-it-work attitude has helped the city survive floods, earthquakes'and dumb terminals.

In 1994, the city was pouring money into a $400,000 Unix mainframe from Data General Corp., network manager Robert Shingledecker said. Maintenance costs were $24,000 a year. The information systems department wanted to migrate the city's systems to a network.

The city evaluated Novell NetWare and Microsoft Windows NT, 'but they just weren't scalable enough,' Shingledecker said.

But when the city decided to move its offices to a new building in 1995, Shingledecker and his team saw an opportunity to migrate the city's systems to Linux, the free operating system created by Linus Torvalds. Anyone can download Linux for free at, and other sites. The IS team installed Red Hat Software Inc.'s Linux Version 5.2. The Research Triangle Park, N.C., company provides service and support for its version of Linux.

Around the same time, Shingledecker discovered Samba, freeware that provides native Windows networking.

'We added Samba to Linux and got the equivalent of an NT server for free,' Shingledecker said.

The city's data is stored in a D3 database from Pick Systems Inc. of Irvine, Calif. Shingledecker described D3 as a 'three-dimensional, nested relational database,' which is written in Linux.

The city has six Linux servers: firewall, PC file and print, database, CD-ROM, imaging, and combination mail and Apache Web server. Each server connects to about 350 Pentium PCs over a citywide WAN, which is linked by fiber-optic cable, with T1 connections to the Internet.

As a result of the Linux-Samba network, the city has saved a lot of money on operating systems and maintenance costs, Shingledecker said. Since the freeware network was installed, the city has not had a single software failure, he said.

Down and forward

'We're able to keep the cost down and move forward,' Shingledecker said. 'It's amazing what you can do with open source code. We created our own in-house imaging system in Swish [Simple Web Indexing System for Humans], which is freeware written in C that we pulled off the Internet. We also use an open source freeware version of pcAnywhere [remote-access software from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.] called Virtual Network Computing.'

And there's a fortunate side effect to all this freeware: Garden Grove is also free of a potentially expensive problem'year 2000 worries. The D3 database uses an integer to store dates, Shingledecker said, so the city doesn't anticipate any date code trouble.

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