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Cutting Costs; A New Alternative for Education IT: DRBL and Clonezilla's Contribution Toward Education

2007/07/17

The National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC) applied its technical expertise and experience to create two new software packages, Diskless Remote Boot in Linux (DRBL) and Clonezilla.  The president and vice president of the National Applied Research Labortories (NARL), Dr. Joe Juang and Dr. Kuang Chong Wu, the president of  NCHC, Dr. Eugene Yeh, and the headmaster of Da Fong Elementary School, Mr. Yo Lee Hong, were all present at the DRBL/Clonezilla press conference held at Da Fong Elementary school in Sin Dian, Taipei.  Two teachers, Mr. Zi Jong Lin of Da Fong Elementary and Mr. Wei Ji Shiau of Hualien Education Network, were invited to share their experience using DRBL and Clonezilla.

DRBL and Clonezilla have gained in popularity worldwide for their stability, speed, and cost effectiveness.  Not only can they be used in high performance computing research and computer management,  they can be applied to educational usage as well.  In an educational environment like the computer lab, they can be used to lower hardware and software costs as well as the manpower and time required to maintain the computers.  Furthermore, the institution is exposed to the benefits of Open Source software. 

Open Source software can be copied and shared.  Teachers can legally make copies of the software and distribute it to students for use at home.  Neither the education institute nor the families have to purchase licenses for the software.  Since January 2007, the two software packages have been downloaded 2,500 times.  If the computers they were downloaded to used Open Source software exclusively, the software license savings would be in the millions of  U.S. dollars.

DRBL is a central management system that can be installed on a central server and deployed to many other computer simultanously.  This decrease costs and increases effectiveness.  Clonezilla is able to quickly and easily establish an Open Source software environment.  It also incorporates an efficient automated recovery system that is suitable for system backup, restoration, or disaster recovery.  All the computers in a classroom can be identically configured simply by installing and pre-configureing the DRBL environment on a single central server.  Existing operating systems on the individual computers will not be effected.  Compared with the traditional method of classroom management, this software greatly increases  management effectiveness, reduces hardware requirements, and lowers liscensing costs normally associated with individual computer setup. 

DRBL and Clonezilla offer a new alternative for education IT.  They allow children to take home  software AND knowledge.  DRBL and Clonezilla were developed in the Open Source spirit which states that software should be ¡§dynamic, free to copy, and share.¡¨  They provide schools with an alternative to commercial software.  With DRBL and Clonezilla, instructors don't have to worry about liscencing issues.  With DRBL and Clonezilla, software and knowledge taught in the classroom are now completly portable.  For this reason, DRBL and Clonezilla have received kudos from many of Taiwan's school teachers.  In fact, it was suggested that DRBL and Clonezilla be used as the primary classroom computer maintenance tool for the Chia Yi and Hualien provincial governments. 

Legally copying and shareing Open Source software can save millions of dollars in licensing fees.
During the first half of 2007, the DRBL/Clonezilla software was downloaded a total of 36,906 times.  In Taiwan, DRBL was downloaded 1,129 times, and Clonezilla 1,403 times.  Overseas, DRBL was downloaded 4,234 times and Clonezilla 30,140 times.  According to these figures, the licensing fees for the displaced commercial software (see note) with Clonezilla functionality is estimated at US $101,016.00 (US $72.00 * 1,403 downloads).  Furthermore, assuming a DRBL computer services 35 student computers, and assuming the student computers contain nothing but Open Source software, the licensing fees saved from the downloads can be calculated at  US $3,595,865.00 (US $ 91.00 * 1,129 downloads * 35 computers).  Adopting Open Source software will create a buyer's market.  Also, overpriced software will be replaced and piracy of commercial software in Taiwan will decrease significantly. 

*Note: example calculated using the market price for a certain operating system that costs US $91 per machine.  A well-known system restore software costs US $73 per traditional Chinese license.

DRBL and Clonezilla gains international attention and introduces users to Taiwan.
DRBL and Clonezilla have been widely used in Taiwan's computer classrooms and overseas as well.  Since 2003, there has been over 40,000 downloads.  More than 400 institutions in Taiwan use the software alone.  Also, more the software is currently being used in more than 20 other countries including the US, Japan, Holland, Indonesia, Canada, and France.  Through these same channels, other Open Source software was also distributed.  According to download stats from January and June 2007, international users have surpassed domestic users (Domestic:  DRBL = 1,129 downloads; Clonezilla = 1,403 downloads vs. International: DRBL = 4,234 downloads; Clonezilla = 30,140 downloads).  For every download, the name ¡§Taiwan¡¨ is impressed upon the user, thus making a positive contribution to Taiwan's reputation. 

In July '07, reserchers involved in the Clonezilla/DRBL project were invited to the Libre Software Meeting (LSM 2007) in France to give a talk on the topic.  At the same time, in the United States, a speaker from Cisco gave a talk on Clonezilla at the Ubuntu Live international conference.  The international influence of DRBL and Clonezilla are just beginning to form, thus introducing the world to Taiwan's outstanding and innovative Open Source software development capabilities.

Open Source Software
Open Source software is software that can be legally downloaded, used, modified, and distributed.  It allows for modifications of the software for the benefit of everyone.  Open Source software, in fact, is actually better than so-called ¡§free software¡¨ in that not only is it free of charge to download and use, its source code is also freely availalbe to modify and improve upon.  The only requirement is that a modified Open Source software must remain Open Source. 

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