Specsavers opts for open source to control systems access

Specsavers opts for open source to control systems access

Rolls out open source architecture to drive global expansion

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Specsavers has completed a three-month project to scale up and roll out its user access-control capability across six countries, as it gears up for further expansion beyond the UK.

The optician chain needed a global tool for user lookup, authentication and access control with distributed administration capabilities. It chose the open source OpenLDAP directory service after decideding that open source offerings in this market were mature enough to deliver a cost-effective and stable long-term platform. Specsaver’s existing proprietary LDAP-based tool was not retained because it was not sufficiently scalable.

The optician’s IT department received support from Sirius, the European open source service group, to make the transition to an open source network architecture.

It is using OpenLDAP integrated with Samba, an open source alternative to Active Directory and Windows-style file and print, to allow Specsavers to control employee access to data and applications based on their job role.

Both open source technologies come without licensing fees but Specsavers said functionality was enterprise-class. Simplified administration of the new system has been delegated to each country using the open source management tool, GOsa.

Michel Khan, the group’s IT director, said: "One of the big drivers for us was growth. In 2003 Specsavers had 500 stores with a target to achieve the 1,000 store target by 2008. This has been achieved ahead of time with the 1000th store opened in 2007.

"The scale of this deployment has been a real challenge in terms of the economics of the investment. Pursuing an 'open source, open standards' strategy has allowed us to meet that."

Mark Taylor, chief executive of Sirius, said: "We were asked to design and build a new authentication system that resembled a Windows-style domain but using our existing LDAP data. OpenLDAP using the GoSA management interface was the answer."

Taylor said that any global business could potentially repeat what Specsavers had done in choosing open source and saving themselves substantial sums every year in licensing fees.

Specsavers' latest use of open source follows on from Khan saying last year that choosing open source was driving the company’s ambitious international growth plan.

Specsavers migrated its IT infrastructure, including servers, desktops and tills, away from Microsoft Windows 2000 to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system last year.


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