Open Source Software Solutions

Open Source Software has been steadily growing in capability and acceptance across the globe, and this has started to happen more recently in Australia. This is partly driven by monopolistic and security concerns associated with Microsoft software and partly driven by the need for less expensive and more flexible IT infrastructure.  VRT Systems delivered its first open source solution in 1996 and plans to increase its emphasis on Open Source based information solutions. Customers now running VRT open source solutions include: Australia Department of Defence, Xstrata, CJ Ord and CoalSync.

VRT has been heavily involved in both Unix and Microsoft worlds for the past 18 years or so.  It is planned that we will continue to develop off the shelf and bespoke solutions in these environments in years to come.  In more recent years, we have also got more involved in using Open Source software to deliver innovative solutions.  This started in 1996 when we developed and delivered the first version of PlantPortal (then call MacroWeb).  This provided web browser access to the MacroView SCADA Systems installed at CSR's Ord River Sugar Mill at Kununurra in Western Australia, accessible from anywhere on the internet.  This system incorporated an Apache server along with Open Source scripting languages, etc.


Approximately two years ago, the MacroView software was ported to Red Hat Linux.  A significant number of these systems have now been installed and customers have been pleased with the increased level of performance and reliability from these systems.


In addition, PlantPortal has been expanded in functionality since 1996 and major additions are planned for completion by the end of 2004.  This will include incorporation of a PostgreSQL database, along with a complete application development environment, all utilising Open Source software components.  This will add a powerful web-deliverable, business application development environment, on top of various SCADA systems, such as MacroView and Citect.  The PlantPortal environment used in conjunction with powerful scripting capabilities within the SCADA software, eg MacroView's Metascript or Citect's Cicode, will enable the delivery of extremely high performance, robust, real-time business solutions.  It is planned that this PlantPortal environment will be used to deliver custom solutions not covered by standard off the shelf packages, such as Citect's IIM modules.

Mobile Data Solutions

VRT's P-trak, barcode and RFID based tracking software, was ported to Linux and the PostgreSQL database in early 2003.  Performance and reliability is at least equal and in general superior to other platforms on which P-trak runs  (Microsoft Oracle on Win2000, etc).  The development plans for P-trak include extensions in both Microsoft and Open Source environments.  

Energy Management

The RUMS (Regional Utilities Management System) software was developed initially for the Department of Defence in a totally Microsoft environment, i.e. Microsoft SQL server, VB, Crystal Reports, etc.  Functionality extensions, including a forecasting capability, are scheduled for completion in Q4 2004.  This extension will involve porting a significant proportion of the RUMS application to an Open Source environment.

VRT will continue to develop solutions in a Microsoft environment as demanded by various customers and markets.  However, as market demands increase in the Open Source arena, particularly in Europe and Asia, and in the near future within Australia, VRT plans to be well positioned to capitalise on these major market shifts.