The town hall of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, is about to enter the 21st century and become a small part of the Linux phenomenon -- whether its residents are ready for it or not.
With an eye toward the future, the city -- an iSeries customer since the early-'90s -- upgraded to the IBM eServer iSeries 550 running Linux and IBM WebSphere software in mid-January and began moving many of its public services online.
Once Cuyahoga Falls' IT upgrade project is finished later this year, local businesses and nearly 50,000 residents will be able to use its enhanced Web site for tasks that they now have to go to town hall for, including the capability to enter income tax information and generate a city income tax return by the April 15th deadline.
The city also plans to use the iSeries server as the foundation for building other online services such as payment for utility bills, building permits and passes for the city's aquatic center. Users may even be able to enroll in classes at the recreational facilities and reserve tee times at Cuyahoga Falls' local golf course.
City officials decided to upgrade the data center a year ago in response to tremendous growth in both population and business development in the city since the late '90s. They wanted to stay with the iSeries and find a platform that could run multiple operating systems, but they weren't thinking Linux at the outset. The original plan was to move over to the iSeries 520, but as the project got further along, city IT officials realized that they would be much better off with a bigger box. Upon further inspection, city officials realized that running a 550 with Linux was more fiscally feasible than they had first thought, and would also allow them more scalability.
"When we took a closer look at [the 550 running Linux], we saw performance and the ability to grow. And the cost factor was tremendous," said John Konich, the city's manager of information services. "It leaves us in a position to expand in the future because it can handle the extra workload. We don't think this is the end of the project."
The city's new computer has four processors, with OS/400 running on one and five Linux partitions on another. The city plans on using the final two processors for future expansion.
The new server will integrate software like Tivoli Access Manager and WebSphere 5.02 across multiple operating systems like the iSeries OS and Linux SuSE v9. The 550 comes with pre-integrated hardware, software for related applications and multiple operating systems such as the i5/OS, AIX 5L, Linux on Power and Microsoft Windows that can run simultaneously. The platform will be protected by the Big Blue's Intrusion Detection System.
Konich knows that making such a bold move is likely to ruffle a few feathers, especially amongst the older residents of Cuyahoga Falls. But once people realize how much more cost-effective and efficient the city will become as a result of this upgrade, Konich feels that residents will embrace their new online town hall.
"I've been around this city for a long time, and there are two sides of the fence. Some people are going to scream about the money we're spending, [but] we're bringing the public services to the Web," Konich said. "It's going to have a tremendous impact."
The city hopes to have the first piece of the puzzle, online access to the parks and recreation department, by the end of March.
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer