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IT in Iran: Servers sold on the grey market, and the rule of FOSS

The head of Iran's OpenStack community can now meet without fear

The eXpat Files Usually for the eXpat Files we talk to folk who have moved to another country. But this week, Vulture Weekend has varied things a little to chat to 28 year-old Roozbeh Shafiee from Tehran, Iran.

As readers doubtless know, Iran restricts internet access and hasn't always been keen on freedom of assembly. It's also the subject of economic sanctions imposed by many nations that prohibit the export of technology.

Yet Roozbeh works as a technical director and cloud architect at a hybrid cloud consultancy, and serves as Iran's OpenStack community manager.

When we bumped into Roozbeh online and found him Tweeting, blogging uploading code to Github and building a cloudy career, we wondered how he does so despite the exigencies mentioned above.

Roozbeh kindly responded to our social media outreach and answered questions by email. So let's get on with his insights into IT in Iran, tweaked a little when necessary, but in his own voice whenever possible.

The Register: Iran restricts internet access, so how do IT pros like yourself get technology information?

Roozbeh Shafiee: Rarely, technology web sites are blocked in Iran, but if someone is exposed to censorship there are many ways to pass that for an IT professional. We usually get information about IT like others who are active in this field all around the world. Famous websites such as The Register are the best resources to find the latest news about IT and high tech.

The Register: How easy is it to download software?

Roozbeh Shafiee: Despite the low-speed internet connection in Iran for most users, downloading software is not impossible. Sanctions from companies like Google, VMware and Oracle against Iranian users and Iranian IP addresses make downloading software harder for them. In this situation, using an internet proxy or torrent could help users to download those products.

The Register: Is it easy to run user-group meetings in Iran? Or is it something that is viewed with suspicion?

Roozbeh Shafiee: In the past, most social activities were viewed with suspicion. ‌But in recent years, social activities and all technology meetings are free. For holding a meeting, the only things which you should have are a place to hold it and some interested people.

The Register: I've read the website for the consultancy you work at, Innfinision, and almost everything you do is open source. Is that because US vendors aren't welcome in Iran or do you just prefer open source?

Roozbeh Shafiee: As the technical director of Innfinision, since the first day of this company's establishment I have decided to use open-source technologies. Using them is one of the main principles of our business. The reasons for using this software are community support, the lack of vendor lock-in, freedom to redistribute, the absence of charges for licences etc.

We do not use proprietary software, but not because of US company sanctions or because they aren't welcome in Iran. It is caused by monopolistic policies in regards to software development and their source code. We do use products from Red Hat and Canonical, two companies based in the US and England, under the laws of these countries.

The Register: What kind of hardware can you get in Iran? Which vendors are active there?

Roozbeh Shafiee: For enterprise usage and data centres we use HP and IBM servers, EMC storage and Cisco appliances. For home users, all ranges of products are available. The cheapest laptops by Acer and the most expensive products of Apple and Samsung – such as the Macbook Pro, iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 Edge – are all options for users. Almost all technology brands are active and available in Iran, whether directly or indirectly.
Next page: Sanctions? Pah!

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