Specsavers, the UK optician, is migrating business-critical store applications to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The UK High Street chain will move all of its servers, desktops and tills from Microsoft Windows 2000 to in its 830 stores in the UK, Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Spain in a bid to simplify maintenance and free itself from vendor “lock-in”.

The Specsavers’ store application, “SOCRATES 7”, which previously ran on Microsoft Windows 2000, will now run Red Hat Enterprise Linux on an Intel platform with Fujitsu Siemens hardware for both servers and store desktops.

Nigel Spain, Specsavers’ global architecture manager said: “With our new store system, every single business-critical application is running on Red Hat, from the till to the test room hardware. We were convinced that Linux would have a major positive impact on our business and Red Hat has delivered exactly what it promised. Instead of the usual approach of direct hard selling, the company was genuinely creative in assisting us with how to redesign our whole IT infrastructure.”

As part of the migration, the SOCRATES 7 application was developed in-house by Specsavers as a Java application to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. In addition to replacing all desktops and servers in the stores, it has also replaced several head-office Solaris servers, while a number of additional Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers running an open source enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for its wholesale business in Australia and Hong Kong.

Specsavers is also using other open source solutions such as Apache webserver and JBoss jBPM (Business Process Management) software to manage its workflow.

The company said it chose its Linux open standard strategy because it enabled the company to standardise applications on a Java platform without vendor lock in. Since migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, it has experienced a stable and future proof platform, in addition to enjoying a reduced need for maintenance and increased reliability.

Specsavers is also using Red Hat Satellite Server to centrally monitor and update all Red Hat Enterprise Linux installations. “The Satellite Server is strategically essential for our operations; we can now automate our whole deployment and manage maintenance and updates centrally. This used to be completed manually going to every single store one-by-one and delaying the process extensively,” said Spain.

And the company has also taken on 24-hour local support from the Red Hat Global Support network.