June 6, 2005

Playboy spreads open source software

Author: Tina Gasperson

Instead of visiting some dry, boring Web site to download your favorite open source software, why not put some spice in your life and get it from Playboy?That spice is in name only, because you won't find any interesting pictures or stories at mirrors.playboy.com -- just a few unadorned directories linking to mirrors of the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) and the latest releases of FreeBSD, Apache, Fedora, and mod_ssl.

mirrors.playboy.com is even an official mirror site for Firefox and Thunderbird, says Playboy Unix administrator Tim Yocum. He wanted to give something back to the community from which his company has drawn so deeply.

Yocum has been working for Playboy Enterprises since 2000, and was responsible for much of the company's move to open source software. All of playboy.com's application servers are running Apache on Red Hat ES, and Yocum is in the process of migrating the Web servers from Solaris on Sun hardware to Red Hat ES on Dell PowerEdge servers. He has been able to reduce the number of servers by about 50% and gain increased processor availability, disk capacity, and throughput, using Apache, Perl, and other open source software.

Playboy's corporate management has warmly welcomed Yocum's moves toward open source. They appreciate the cost savings and, Yocum says, display an attitude of "whatever works." The push toward open source, he says, comes from the bottom up; the real fans of Apache and Perl are the network administrators, including himself, and they are fortunate to have bosses who give them the freedom to use open alternatives.

When Yocum wanted to set up a mirror for the different types of open source software he'd made use of at playboy.com, chief technology officer Danielle Barcilon told him to go for it. "I cobbled together a box from spare parts," he says. The server sits on the network consuming unused bandwidth and so costs the company nothing.

Yocum says mirrors.playboy.com gets a steady stream of traffic, around 30-40MB each day. Users looking for Apache, Firefox, and Thunderbird downloads come mostly from the main Web sites for each program and are randomly directed to one of many mirror sites. Other visitors come from links around the Net, where word is starting to spread that open source devotees can get their jollies from a most unexpected source.


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