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Romanian animal monitoring program proves open source's reliability

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Romania for the past seven years has been using open source for all servers, PCs and laptops for its country-wide farm animal monitoring program. It proofs the reliability and sustainability of this type of software, says Teodorescu Constantin, the project's IT manager. "We chose Linux and other open source solutions because we wanted trouble-free workstations."

That the software is free of cost and comes with no restrictions in use are two more important reasons to choose open source, he adds. Constatin, a former state secretary to the Romanian Ministry for ICT: "We recently changed the computers of the veterinarians to laptops and of course we are still using Linux and Postgresql."

The project, the National Animal Identification and Registration, is a project run by the Romania's National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture. It is a network of some three thousand stations to monitor cows, sheep, goats and pigs.

All desktops and laptops are running Linux Mint. The main applications are accessed through a web browser, in most cases Linux Mint's default browser, Firefox. The data is first stored locally, allowing fast offline operations. Later the information is synchronised with a central server, using either CDMA or GSM modems. "Syncing is done using good old rsync', says Constatin.

In the data centre in Bucharest, the national operator of the database manages the 'mirrors' of all the local databases. "The information is aggregated into a central database using a lot of scripts and Java processes, all based on open source."

Powerful Postgresl
The central Postgresql server is a powerful machine running Linux, with 24 cores and many Gigabytes of memory, Constatin adds. The central database serves about five hundred users. This includes authorities checking on veterinarian sanitary, agencies involved in distributing farm subsidies. Other users are organisations that keep track of the transport of animals, processing by slaughterhouses, births, health reports or laboratory results. "The size of the machine helps it to easily answer to all of their requests."

Most of these applications are built using Google's open source Web Toolkit. "There are a few older applications that we wrote using PHP and Echo2, and a few recent ones in Google's programming language Go."

Reports on the cattle data are built using the open source reporting tools JasperReports.

The engineers are currently testing the use of the open source web-database CouchDB. "We're considering to move the next version of the application to CouchDB, because of its built-in replication capabilities."

More information:
Copy of a news report from 2005 (in Romanian)