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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

Sanctions? Pah!

The Register: How does that western hardware get into Iran? Sanctions mean the companies you've mentioned should not have been able to sell in Iran.

Roozbeh Shafiee: These products come in through dealers and brokers and are purchased at higher prices than the regular prices on the global market. Usually these dealers and brokers are from countries around Iran, mainly located in the United Arab Emirates.

You can see compute servers and storage servers in every data centre or even server rooms in organisations and companies. Working with these appliances for an administrator or network engineer is a routine task every day. Rarely, you can see Oracle SPARC servers in some government data centres for high-end and critical computing.

The Register: What's the technology community like in Iran? Are there lots of meet-ups and user groups?

Roozbeh Shafiee: There are too many communities based on technologies in Iran. Open source communities like Linux User Groups (LUG), OpenStack Users Group, Docker and Python (PUG) to startup communities like Startup Grind and Startup Weekend are active and hold their periodic meetings and meet-ups every week, or at least once a month. You can find their pages on

The Register: Can you easily get a smartphone?

Roozbeh Shafiee: Yes, we can! Iran has the biggest mobile penetration rate in the Middle East with more than 70 per cent. In Iran, like all around the world, you can search your considered smartphone specifications and select one of them according to your money and finance, and buy from a tech shop or even online and get your smartphone in less than 24 hours. I would like to invite you to travel to Iran and see this yourself.

The Register: What do foreign sanctions mean to you, your work and your family?

Roozbeh Shafiee: It is not true if I say the foreign sanctions do not effect on our life and work. Prices for goods and commodities were the first to be affected by the sanctions, for people and the government. But we had to find a way to overcome problems caused by sanctions and finally we did it. We found a way to meet the requirements. We couldn't use them in the production stage but we found the technologies for future self-sufficiency. For example, I was present at one of those projects for more than a year, designing and producing a native storage server.

The Register: Is that the MetaNAS project listed on your GitHub page? Why did you develop them? How long did it take?

Roozbeh Shafiee: In middle of 2011, after a range of sanctions by the US and Europe because of Iran's nuclear activities, we started these projects to produce our native products. The main goal and reason for these projects was to produce cost-effective native products for our domestic consumption.

LibreBSD was an open-source software platform for producing native enterprise appliances and equipment. MetaNAS was one of my projects for the company I worked for previously. The development of the early version of that took two years. That was focussed on a small operating system for our native storage servers for small businesses.

The Register: What will the Vienna agreements to remove sanctions mean for you, your work and your family?

Roozbeh Shafiee: For us, the Vienna agreements mean a return to the world community, reconciliation with the world, more interaction and co-operation in science, technology, economy and politics, and more respect in a win-win game. Iran is a country with young people and is the second country in its population of engineers, according to world statistics. This opportunity means we can help each other to make and improve a better world.

In short, today is the first day of the rest of our lives for all of us.

Have you left the nation of your birth to work in another nation? You could make a great subject for a future eXpat Files. Or have you been on-call and been asked to fix something odd? That means you're a candidate for our On-Call tales. If you'd like to play in either camp, drop me a line to share your story. ®

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