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Oliver Smith
on 29 August 2023

How New Mexico State University accelerates compliant federal research with Ubuntu

When the stakes are high and national security is on the line, every decision matters. Just ask the team at New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory (PSL).

Founded back in 1946 to support the United States’ space and rocket programs, PSL has been on the leading edge of defence-oriented applied science for over seven decades. But when the Department of Defense (DoD) rolled out new cybersecurity guidelines, PSL found itself at a crossroads.

New compliance standards and legacy OS

With the introduction of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) 2.0 program and FIPS 140 validated cryptography, PSL was under pressure to find a new operating system that would meet these stringent compliance standards. At the same time the right choice would need to be easy to use for their team of in-house researchers and student hires. 

PSL was using CentOS, which was about to be discontinued. This sent them on a mission to find a cost-effective, easy-to-use, and compliant alternative.

Enter Ubuntu

After a series of trials, Ubuntu emerged as the clear choice for PSL. It wasn’t just that Ubuntu offered the necessary FIPS 140 certification through Ubuntu Pro at a price that was 4-5 times lower than the other options. Ubuntu’s intuitive design and large open source community support, along with comprehensive and free documentation, made it the ideal solution for PSL’s diverse team. Even for the student hires, getting up to speed with managing their own Linux servers became a breeze with Ubuntu.

Transitioning to a new OS could have been a disruptive process, but thanks to the simplicity of Ubuntu and wealth of online resources, the shift was almost seamless. Now, PSL is not just on track to achieve full CMMC certification within a year, they can also rapidly deploy and test new servers in response to project requirements, adding a new level of agility to their research process.

The feedback from the team at PSL says it all. As Ed Zenisek, IT Manager at PSL, puts it, “Info on Ubuntu is right there at our fingertips. Anything we need to know is always just a Google search away, so whatever issues we run into are easy to solve”.

It’s not just about ticking the boxes for compliance or keeping costs down. The story of PSL’s transition to Ubuntu is a testament to the power of a user-friendly, transparent, and community-supported operating system. Whether you’re a seasoned IT manager or a student getting your feet wet in the world of Linux servers, Ubuntu is there to make your life easier. 

Thinking of making the switch?

For a deeper dive into PSL’s experiences migrating to Ubuntu check out the full case study.

To learn more about Ubuntu in education and academic research, join our webinar on September 19th.

Read more about Ubuntu Pro and how it supports compliance in highly regulated environments.

Discount for approved educational institutions

To support those using Ubuntu in schools, research and academia, Canonical is pleased to offer a discount programme for approved institutions.

To find out more, please get in touch.

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