Without Much Fanfare, Linux Takes Over Building Security at Bausch & Lomb

When the workers come through the front doors of Bausch & Lomb’s saline solution manufacturing plant in Greenville, S.C. each morning, they probably don’t know that the system monitoring those doors is running on Linux.

In an indication of how the open source operating system is becoming increasingly commonplace as a platform for everyday applications, however, Bausch & Lomb has been running the access control and security management system for its Greenville plants on top of Linux since late last year.

The move was not part of some Bausch & Lomb strategic master plan to adopt open source technologies. Instead, the eye care company, which is headquartered in Rochester, NY, simply upgraded to the next release of its building security software, Picture Perfect. That version ran on Red Hat Linux.

Previous versions of Picture Perfect, which is made by GE Interlogix, CASI Division, a subsidiary of the General Electric Company, ran on SCO’s UnixWare. But as acceptance of Linux grows, says Zev Freidus, a product manager at GE Interlogix, Unixware was losing ground, and becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

“It was hard to find hardware drivers for UnixWare,” says Freidus. The company also ran into issues on UnixWare with support for third-party software that Picture Perfect requires, like IBM’s Informix database.

GE Interlogix had no problems with UnixWare’s stability, says Freidus, but the operating system didn’t scale well. “The more card readers you had on your system, the more performance you would lose,” he says.

That led GE Interlogix to offer a pricier version of Picture Perfect on IBM’s AIX. “The UnixWare version was targeted for the lower end of the market,” Freidus says. “It was more cost effective, but did not have the capacity that the AIX version had.”

One of the unexpected benefits of porting to Linux, says Freidus, was how well it scaled.
“With Linux, we can scale essentially indefinitely,” he says. “The Linux version of Picture Perfect performs as well as, or even better than the AIX version.”

Stability is crucial

Scalability is not a critical factor for Bausch & Lomb, which uses Picture Perfect to monitor about 40 doors in two buildings, but the system’s stability is crucial. That’s because Bausch & Lomb is also using Picture Perfect to monitor more than 100 sensors which are keeping tabs on key parts of the manufacturing process, like the temperature of refrigerators in the labs.

That’s a somewhat unusual use for Picture Perfect, according to Sean Green, senior project engineer for Bausch & Lomb, but it works well, since the company has security guards monitoring the system 24 hours a day. If an alarm goes off, it brings up a window on the security monitor with contact information specifically for that monitor. “Our security guards are sitting there managing the security of the building, but there also available to catch the alarms and call the appropriate people,” Green says.

Because Bausch & Lomb is using Picture Perfect to monitor its mission critical factory operations, “we can’t afford for the system to be down ever,” says Green.

That makes him appreciate Linux’ stability. So even though Bausch & Lomb didn’t set out to adopt Linux, the company is happy with it, according to Green. “The operating system’s working great,” he says.