The Solusi Open Source Story

Thembinkosi moyot at
Thu Jul 10 18:21:09 BST 2008

Case Study: The Solusi University Open Source Software Project 

Solusi University is located 50 kilometres south of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
Our Vision is, to be a World-class Christian University by 2010. The vision
is faced by huge challenges due to the poor economic climate we are
operating in. One area we have to address to archive our vision is the
efficient use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT's).

In 2006 Solusi had less than 90 personal computers on campus. There are was
no campus wide network.  We had independent dialup internet connections that
were not reliable. There were no servers for email or websites. In short
there were no sound ICT's.

Late 2006 began a revolution at Solusi. We got donors you where willing to
identify with our vision and wanted to help develop the ICT area of the
university. This resulted in the acquisition of 240 computers from Computer
Aid International. These machines came without any operating system
software. We had to find a way around the huge cost of Microsoft Windows
operating system software. We began looking for the free or open source
alternatives and decided to use Ubuntu 6.04 as our solution. In no time, we
were able to have all 240 personal computers installed and running. 

We managed to acquire a Sun Microsystems FX2000 blade server at an academic
price. This server has 10 Gigabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM), two 250
Gigabytes Hard Disk drives, and 4 Dual Core processors. We installed free
Debian Linux 4.0 operating system software on it as the base operating
software. The free VMware 1.05, server virtualisation software was then
installed on it. With this setup we where able to install 7 Ubuntu 8.04
servers on it. These servers included; a web server to host our website and our intranet sites for campus clubs, software
based firewall Ipcop, an online registration system called IUTUS made by
AIIAS in the Philippines, among others. We use Nagios to monitor these
servers. Nessus is used as a vulnerability checker for our network.

We have installed a free email server [MTA] called qmail to run our email
service. This email server authenticates users from a Light weight directory
authentication protocol (LDAP) which is also open source and free. All
systems on our network use this directory to authenticate users, we
currently have over 6000 email accounts running on the server. The web mail
interface is Claros InTouch 2.2 interface. We also use Open Exchange as the
collaboration software. We added a free open source Jabber chat server
called Openfire, which our users use to communicate with each other though
online chat. Moodle manages our elearning portal.

We also setup a campus area network to join all these computers to a
1Megabyte link we have to the internet. IPCOP, a free Linux based firewall
software was use to share, route and control access to the internet.  The
240 machines have Open Office and the alternative to Microsoft Office. This
works well for students who take courses in Introduction to Computers, in
which they were taught to use word processing software, spread sheets and
presentation software. Mozilla Firefox is used as the free alternative to
Internet Explorer.

With the main advantage of being free and legal software, Ubuntu proves
unaffected by viruses and more stable than the Microsoft operating systems.
In our academic environment where movement of files from person to person
and computer to computer is high, Ubuntu manages to rise to the challenge.
It reduces support costs. Our network is 99% free and open source software.

The cost of software did not hold us back from delivering a world class ICT
experience to our users, thanks to open source and free software.

 As open source software develops we for see a strong if not better
alternative to the proprietary software in the operating system software





Thembinkosi Moyo

ICT Manager

Solusi University


Direct Line: +263 9 887733

Cell + 263 11 633 962

=>You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what
you're doing is work or play.
<> Warren Beatty


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