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Linux Gets Hawaii's Records House in Order

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Linux

Lester Nakamura tries to pride himself on always keeping an open mind. But when he went searching for a long-term solution to the state of Hawaii's bookkeeping needs, Nakamura said he quickly concluded that an open-source system was the only choice.

Up to that time-in 2002-the state's Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs had labored under a financial analysis program called FAMIS (Family Accounting and Management Information System)-a rickety COBOL application that could generate only a fixed set of budgetary reports, which were updated monthly and then printed out for state officials for review.

Reports routinely took weeks to assemble. If anyone requested a nonstandard report, a COBOL programmer had to write a new program to generate it.

In a state that prides itself for service and hospitality, "this was not a user-friendly system," said Nakamura, administrator for Hawaii's Information and Communication Services Division, in Honolulu.

In 2002, exasperated state officials turned to the Linux operating system to change that. They wanted all budget and expenditure data in one data mart, with a front-end application that lets users download data to their PCs and crunch numbers as they see fit.

Moreover, they did not want to shackle themselves for another decade or so to a proprietary system such as FAMIS. An open-source platform would offer stability yet still evolve with the state's needs.

"We wanted to use as much of the resources as we already had in place, and where we had to buy infrastructure we wanted it to be as economical as possible," said Wayne Sasaki, a branch manager in the Department of Accounting and General Services who worked on the project with Nakamura. "So we started talking about Linux. The goal with Linux was cost."

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