NZ Post is handling the "logistical challenges" of its Windows 2000 rollout on the principle that hard disks are less expensive than the time of IT experts.
The new operating system and related applications, replacing Post's IBM OS/2 environment, are being rolled out by creating an image on a hard disk and making a fairly straightforward hardware swap in the PCs at the nation's 320 Post Shops.
The upgrade is reduced to "a minimal amount of on-site engineering", says technical architecture manager Stuart Wakefield, and the old disks can be reimaged with the new OS and applications and recycled into other new machines.
The disk swap is also the technique that creates minimal disruption to daily work at the Post Shop machines.
The applications on the PCs were "basically Oracle Forms, with a variety of utility programs in a wide variety of languages".
A Windows 2000-compliant upgrade of the Forms application was run up and the other applications rewritten, mostly in C++, with some in C. The development was handled by long-time partner Datacom, 29.4%-owned by NZ Post, in the last quarter of last year.
Post rolled out a six-shop pilot late in the year and, after it had passed checks, commenced the full rollout.
The PCs in the general corporate environment already run Windows 2000.
The organisation investigated Linux as an alternative, Red Hat being the first choice for evaluation, "though we also looked at Debian", says Wakefield. It was not chosen for several reasons.
"We still have peripherals for which there is limited availability of Linux drivers, and there were questions around support from some of the peripheral vendors. And we have an existing support structure for Windows. It would be different if we were starting with a clean slate."
Some Linux is used at NZ Post "predominantly in the service infrastructure" for domain servers and the like, Wakefield says.