An interview with Patryk Rządziński, head of IT at OSTC Poland.
Global Financial Derivatives trading company, OSTC Poland, uses Gentoo Linux in significant sectors of its IT infrastructure. We spoke with long time Gentoo user and head of OSTC Poland's IT department, Patryk Rządziński, to learn more about how and where Gentoo is used. We discovered, as you will read in the full interview, that Gentoo, and more generally open source software, serves well in the commercial world.
Hi Patryk, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. Please tell us about yourself and your experiences with Gentoo.
My name is Patryk Rządziński, I'm a Gentoo user since about 2003. I'm currently employed as a head of IT in OSTC Poland, the first and largest proprietary derivatives trading company in Poland. Despite still being a rather young company, they show vast interest in open source solutions and new technology and that attracted me to it like a bee to honey :-). As I had the opportunity to introduce Gentoo Linux into this company, replacing some Debians and Ubuntus.
Gentoo was the first Linux distribution I tried, at the beginning for personal use on a desktop system. Switching from windows 2003 to Linux wasn't easy, but all it needed was time. Gentoo is often described as a "hard distro", which lead me to thinking that if I learn it properly, I should have no problems with other popular distributions. Surprisingly, following the handbook got me to a working operating system without any problems, chapeau bas before the authors of all Gentoo documentation!
A couple of years later I got the opportunity to try out other distributions at my current employer's office. There were quite some servers with Debian on board, however using them seemed to me like a huge step back, having some glitches I will describe later on. There were also servers based on Ubuntu, however the "Linux with Windows-like problems" term seems to describe them in the best way. Generally I'm still having a couple of Ubuntu servers simply because they run on very old hardware and compiling sources would be plainly a loss of time, while their role is not so significant.
When did OSTC start using Gentoo?
It was a couple of months after I started working in OSTC. Before that I have been using Gentoo on my desktop for about 4 years. Starting early 2008 I have gradually moved various servers to Gentoo in the company. At this point we are using Gentoo unless an ISV requires a specific OS.
On servers with 3-4 GB of RAM or more, we choose the amd64 arch. On other machines the choice is the regular x86 arch. In some cases we are using the unmasked arches for testing purposes of upcoming releases, before they reach the stable arch.
Right now we have 22 machines with Gentoo Linux on board serving various purposes, including regular Internet services, VoIP, application servers and even some desktops. Moving services from Debian to Gentoo was a result of many issues I had with the former:
Does OSTC use open source software(OSS) in other capacities, what are they?
Yes, whenever there is a fine and stable FOSS concurrent solution to a commercial one, we always prefer the FOSS, even if it means less support and more work or workarounds. A perfect example here is voice communication.
What OSS projects do you use regularly at work?
That would be everything our non-IT staff uses, in example Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice.org, which are fine replacements for other popular non-FOSS software, having most of the popular protocols implemented much better to be honest (Will Outlook ever implement IMAP properly? :>).
Why did OSTC switch from Windows to Linux?
The main reason would be cost and efficiency. There is no point in paying for a Windows license if we need to run a single, stable service on a machine we would like to avoid rebooting. Linux in general was the immediate answer. Nevertheless mind you that Gentoo was not the first Linux distribution in OSTC. There was Debian and Ubuntu.
What have been some of the difficulties you have experienced with Gentoo?
There were of course hard times with Gentoo, however most of the time they were unrelated to the distribution itself. For example I had trouble getting asterisk to compile while using a recent kernel, however tracking down bugzilla allowed me to find the recent changes in the kernel, which were causing trouble here and add a couple of sed lines to modify the asterisk sources accordingly.
If there are a couple of things I am not that fond of in Gentoo, that would be the main tree ebuild releases. For example, a Firefox ebuild released twice in a day points that the first one had something overlooked and the user has to recompile it twice. There were also ebuilds with wrong checksums, or with patches that couldn't apply. It is most probably a matter of quality having to be over quantity, however this is rather insignificant and easily fixed even by home Linux user. The real challenge would be dealing with the social issues between Gentoo developers, which could give Gentoo a more professional look and thus get more support from companies. As a feature request I'd still like a modern Gentoo organized Linux with binary packages, for the sake of utilizing older hardware, however this need will obviously become less important with time.
Thanks again for taking the time to discuss your personal and commercial experiences with Gentoo. Do you have any further remarks?
To conclude here I'd like to encourage all admins to at least give Gentoo a try, if they value their time, and like their systems neat and nice. I'm personally very satisfied with my systems on Gentoo.
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