Ernst Supports Open Source Software

Ernst Publishing Co., an Albany, N.Y.-based provider of recording fee, transfer tax and title data to originators, has embraced the open source technology movement. For the most part, the company uses it for its internal operations.

Harold Grunenwald, Ernst’s network/systems administration person, said the key principal behind open source is freedom. This is in terms of how the software is used and how information regarding it is exchanged as well as “free” in the meaning that it costs nothing to install and use the software as the user sees fit, he said. One of the more popular open source programs is the Linux operating system.

“It gives you the right to see what is going on inside that software. You can analyze it, you can improve upon it, and as a good member of a community, it’s encouraged that if you see room for improvement to share those improvements with the community that originally created it,” Grunenwald explained.

For example, the company has contributed code to the Chef project (a configuration-management tool), documentation improvements, an improvement to the cookbook that installs the Perl programming language (adding compatibility to the Windows platform) and a completely new cookbook that installs the Zabbix monitoring agent for Windows computers.

Rather than the traditional “plug it in and trust us” software, open source has “a lot of eyes” looking over the software and making improvements and fixes, he noted.

Gregory Teal, president and CEO of Ernst, said that when Grunenwald joined the company is the period the company decided to install much of internal systems on open source servers. This includes such things as internal reporting processes. Its client-facing activities are still on more traditional software platforms.

Christopher Ayers, director of software development, said open source will become an “in-house alternative” to the cloud, especially because of the information sharing that the community undertakes. He predicts mortgage shops will adopt open source technology as a cost-cutting measure because of that fact.

Open source will help the mortgage industry in its efforts to adopt a common data standard to share information, he believes.

It is freely shared work so the user does not have to reinvent the wheel, said Grunenwald.
One example of how Ernst uses open source is that it has adapted the technology behind Wikipedia for its own internal documentation.