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Moving Small Organizations from Windows to Linux?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the things-to-think-about-before-migrating dept.

Linux Business 200

chris1646 asks: "Currently we are a small organization that is entirely a Windows shop. Next year much of the server and desktop hardware we run will need replacing. I am looking for creative ways to introduce Linux as my desktop and server OS of choice, however a couple of our core applications run exclusively on Windows. Has anyone had any success hosting Windows applications via terminal server while using Linux as the client OS? Has anyone handled a AD to open source LDAP migration?"

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Look at costs, Servers first (4, Informative)

innosent (618233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412190)

Look at your costs before migrating to Linux clients for RDP. Terminal Services Licenses cost nearly as much as a full XP license, so you will likely spend more to do it this way. Having said that, you might be able to run your critical apps under WINE, and use Linux X clients to run it via SSH. I would definitely focus on the servers first though. Check out the O'Reilly books for LDAP and "Linux in a Windows World" for guidance, but it really depends on how many people need to use those critical windows apps, and what apps they are. Let me know what type of apps you are talking about, as there may be replacements or documented WINE support for them. AD to LDAP isn't likely to be much trouble with only a few users, and any mail, file, and print services should be relatively simple to implement, whether you convert or use winbind to maintain AD integration. Having been on both sides, though, I would definitely prefer switching to LDAP first, as AD can give you plenty of headaches down the road. Also, regardless of which path you take, be sure to make use of NTP to maintain your clocks, since a small drift will eventually wreak havoc on anything using kerberos, and it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when something suddenly stops working.

Re:Look at costs, Servers first (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412244)

If you have some spare XP Pro licenses, then you could conceivably dedicate a few XP machines (or a few HVM domains on a machine running Xen) to running the Windows-only apps. Only one person could connect to XP at a time, but if the apps are only used infrequently, or by a few people, then this might work.

Personally, I would begin by switching to cross platform applications, and then switch OS last, once you no longer need it for anything. As another poster said, investigate running the apps under WINE. The longer you can go without upgrading them, the more likely they are to work.

slight amendment... (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412454)

in all situations where fast user switching is possible, (not domain enviroements, not media editions with extenders) you can have one user on an XP machine locally, and one on RDS logged in remotely.. so- two people could connect to xp at a time.

see http://sig9.com/articles/concurrent-remote-desktop [sig9.com]

before my network at home became a domain enviroment, I used this to run xp sessions off a crappy win me laptop....

except for processing video, it was just like a full fledged xp on my laptop..

Re:Look at costs, Servers first (1)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412526)

AD to LDAP not likely to be much trouble? Then your experience is different from mine..

The recommended way to switch over an AD to Linux, is to setup Samba to host file shares and LDAP to do the authentication. Setting up Samba itself is fairly easy. It is the different and weird ways in which Windows clients connects to the shares that will cause trouble. You will need to analyze the log files very closely because very minor errors in your setup will cause clients to be unable to connect for very strange reasons. You will have to learn about machine accounts and all the problems they can cause you.

Also, AD:s most often use ACL:s. There is no equivalent in the Linux world but you have to be content with the simple user and group settings available in the *nix world. So if your AD uses more advanced access control features you probably wont be able to replicate them in Linux. Sure, you could try using the Extended Attributes that some distros use. But that is yet an unproven technology and you shouldn't rely on it working.

Then you will run into character encoding problems, but that should be fixable. Just select the correct character set so that the filenames look correct in Windows and let your Linux clients (if you have any) see the corrupted filenames.

Setting up LDAP could be pretty painless. Just learn the very weird syntax ldapsearch and other LDAP directory querying tools use. It is the smb-ldap-tools package that will cause problems. It is a bunch of Perl scripts that are supposed to simplify setting up Samba/LDAP, but they are fairly buggy.

Doing all this isn't impossible and most of the problems are possible to solve (except for the ACL one). But it is not easy, and the resulting environment will NOT be identical to a pure Windows AD environment. I have done it for a small company and it took me roughly one month. In the end they stayed with their AD. Mostly for two reasons. First, Samba+LDAP does things different from AD. It is not worse, but it doesn't behave exactly like an AD. Second, where the HELL do you find a Samba/LDAP specialist to administer it and how much do you pay him or her?
 

Re:Look at costs, Servers first (1)

innosent (618233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412692)

Doing the switch while maintaining Windows clients can be done easily by replacing the login handlers in windows with something like pGina. Posix ACLs are fairly mature, and work quite well in Linux, and of course are fully mature in Solaris, if you decided to go that route (which might be worth it for zfs, if there is a large enough set of user files). Of course, the major reason why I said the migration is not likely to be difficult is because we are talking about a small business, not a 100+ user migration. Also, the whole idea (at least my take) is to not have the headaches associated with running an AD domain, so one would hope that it would not be identical to Windows. Realistically, though, in a small business there is likely to be only two or three groups of users (managers and everyone else, maybe legal), and ACLs are probably overkill. Samba with LDAP becomes almost trivial (aside from the 20 different ways to set up Samba, according to 20 different setup guides) once you remove AD and winbind from the equation.

Re:Look at costs, Servers first (2, Insightful)

secolactico (519805) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412582)

Having said that, you might be able to run your critical apps under WINE, and use Linux X clients to run it via SSH.

... after making sure with your software/support provided that this is a supported configuration. Otherwise, they might use it as an excuse when something breaks (even if it's not a wine issue) to wiggle out of fixing a particularly difficult problem (if they are anything like the provider of a company I used to work with, they probably sold you the Windows licenses and might not be tickled pink to see the OS upgrade revenue going away).

Don't rush things. Break in the users nice and calm. Set up sample workstations for each environment and ask them to give them a try and get their feedback. That way you'll be prepared to deal with the little (yet annoying) issues or even better, you'll be able to avoid them. For example, in Windows, the U.S. International keyboard layout differs slightly from the Linux version in the way they handle the entering of special characters. It's no big deal, but for a fast touch typist, it can really wreck your pace while you retrain your finger memory.

Good luck. If you do succeed, please post your story and let us know.

Re:Look at costs, Servers first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17413616)

Excellent post. Too bad somebody doesn't come up with a way to push GPOs via Samba/LDAP.

Real world vs. fanboy fantasies (1, Flamebait)

Mike Bourna (748040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412194)

You didn't explain why you would want to migrate your shop to Linux in the first place. You even mention that the software you need is Windows-only stuff, but you want to make things complicated, difficult and expensive by running this Windows software on Linux virtual terminals instead of natively!

I am what most people would consider a highly trained technical professional. Unlike most people who spout off at this site, I have the certificates to prove this, and furthermore they're issued by the biggest software company in existence.

I know how to tell facts from marketing fluff. Now, here are the facts as they're found by SEVERAL INDEPENDENT RESEARCH INSTITUTES:

Expenses for file-server workloads under Windows, compared to LinuxOS:
  • Staffing expenses were 33.5% better.
  • Training costs were 32.3% better.


They compared Microsofts IIS to the Linux 7.0 webserver. For Windows, the cost was only:
  • $40.25 per megabit of throughput per second.
  • $1.79 per peak request per second.


Application development and support costs for Windows compared to an opensores solution like J2EE:
  • 28.2% less for large enterprises.
  • 25.0% less for medium organizations.


A full Windows installation, compared to installing Linux, on an Enterprise Server boxen:
  • Is nearly three hours faster.
  • Requires 77% fewer steps.


Compared to the best known opensores webserver "Red Hat", Microsoft IIS:
  • Has 276% better peak performance for static transactions.
  • Has 63% better peak performance for dynamic content.


These are hard numbers and 100% FACTS! There are several more where these came from.

Who do you think we professionals trust more?
Reliable companies with tried and tested products, or that bedroom coder Thorwaldes who publicly admits that he is in fact A HACKER???

--
Copyright (c) 2006 Mike Bouma, MCSE, MCDST, MS Office Specialist, widely respected Amigan

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
Free Documentation License".

Re:Real world vs. fanboy fantasies (1, Funny)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412252)

I have the certificates to prove this, and furthermore they're issued by the biggest software company in existence.
Oh, you're an IBM Certified Enterprise Developer? Good for you! Way more impressive than, say, a MVP for MSN Messenger [asp.net] or Notepad. ;-)

Translation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412266)

Mike Bourna is too stupid to even exist let alone use a computer.

Re:Translation (0, Offtopic)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412318)

Well, I guess this is what happens when some well-meaning doctor teaches an old ex-GNAA renegade to play Minesweeper as therapy...

Re:Real world vs. fanboy fantasies (2, Insightful)

altstadt (125250) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412480)

The plural of anecdote is not data -- Frank Kotsonis

<anecdote>

Now, here are the facts as they're found in ONE PREVIOUS PLACE OF WORK:

We had roughly 150 people working in a branch office, 110 of which were a mix of hardware and software engineers. The rest were either support or upper management.

We had roughly twice as many computers as people, with the computers in the lab area shared among many people depending on who was using a bench on any particular day.

About 80% of the computers were running a couple of Unix variants, mostly Solaris. The rest of the computers were running Windows.

We had 3 full time IT people who had to support all the workstations, servers, and communications equipment.

  • The IT people reported that 80% of their support tickets were for the 20% Windows machines.
  • Since we didn't have root access to the Unix machines, many of the remaining 20% support tickets were spent in either shutting down Unix machines so we could move them to another bench, or for installing new hardware and/or software.

</anecdote>

I have yet to talk to anybody who has actually experienced a situation where Windows support and development costs were less than Unix (or Linux) support and development costs for the same staff at the same location. I figure these places must exist, because SEVERAL INDEPENDENT RESEARCH INSTITUTES seem to stumble over them all the time. I'm glad I've never worked at any of them though.

Re:Real world vs. fanboy fantasies (3, Informative)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412484)

You didn't explain why you would want to migrate your shop to Linux in the first place. You even mention that the software you need is Windows-only stuff, but you want to make things complicated, difficult and expensive by running this Windows software on Linux virtual terminals instead of natively!
Those first two sentences contained some great advice. It's too bad your post turned into what looked like a bunch of [independently researched] BS numbers.

However, if I were to add to that first bit as a reply to the submitter, I'd seriously consider the question of whether or not this small shop can continue on servicing a Linux deployment with a complex mix of Windows/Linux after you leave. After all, you don't plan to work there forever and given that you have to ask others for advice, how likely is it that:

A) you can seamlessly make the transition yourself; and
B) someone else can easily pick up where you left off?

Unix-based servers are absolutely great and typically rock solid at doing server kind of stuff... much more so than Windows presently is. However, I'd actually advise you to stay with Windows. It's what a lot of people know, you know it currently works, and unless there is a serious compelling reason why you can't just continue with the status quo, it's the cheaper to use what you have than try and make changes with potentially unknown complications.

If anything, I'd setup a parallel network running Linux and host some services off of that, gradually migrating services one at a time over to it while you transition off. And if things go south and you run into issues you can't resolve, you could always pull the plug and you still have your original Windows network.
 

Re:Real world vs. fanboy fantasies (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413130)

I don't think that the situation heavily favours Windows at this point. It's not entirely clear. They have a couple of core applications that are currently Windows only. The path to go will depend a lot on what the core applications are, whether there are Linux equivalents, whether the core applications will run well on Wine, or VNC, and how many people use those core applications.

It may be, for example, that 75% of the office could move to Linux and Open Office today, while the other 25% might have to either stay with Windows in the interim or use VNC or Cygwin on Linux with a longer delay while a more permanent solution is worked on.

If, on the other hand, 90% of the company uses the critical applications, they are designed in such a way that running them on an emulator or network isn't feasible and there's no Linux equivalent, then you've got a slam dunk for staying with Windows.

As with any situation where you're depending on a 2 paragraph description of a complex situation, there's a lot of detail missing that would likely make a critical difference.

Re:Real world vs. fanboy fantasies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17413380)

shhh... you had me at boxen.

Why? (4, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412196)

As always, there's not enough information. Why do you want to do this? What are you trying to accomplish? What apps? How critical are they? If you want to switch just for the sake of switching, then really, you should be fired.

Re:Why? (1)

Anml4ixoye (264762) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412308)

If you want to switch just for the sake of switching, then really, you should be fired.


I disagree somewhat with this. For some people, it goes beyond technology to beliefs of free and open systems. It was me deciding to switch "just to switch" that led me to the great programs I use today (Firefox, Thunderbird, Eclipse, etc), and a desktop I enjoy (Gnome on Gentoo).

As long as he takes into account all of the things (like are they going to pay for support if one of the systems does down - or do they even /need/ support if it goes down) I think it is a good thing to at least investigate what is involved in switching. If we don't investigate alternatives, we won't know the ways our current stuff could be better.

Re:Why? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412428)

For some people, it goes beyond technology to beliefs of free and open systems

Well, if you're personal system, it doesn't matter what you use. But this guy is talking about a business. If it's anything like my business, computer downtime costs a lot of money, and a lot of families depend on those computers being up and functional. I think that basing what should be a business decision on a (questionable) philosophy can be a pretty irresponsible move. If it goes badly, what do you say to the employees who are not getting paychecks? "Sorry about not being able to pay you, but our software is Free, which makes it... better. Sorry about not being able to pay for food."

That's not an exaggeration. If our computers at my business (retail) went down for any signficiant amount of time, then I've got to lay off people.

Re:Why? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412524)

Bollocks. Avoiding vendor lock-in is a sound business philosophy for a cost sensitive small business. If there are employees who can comfortably administer *nix, Microsoft boxes are an unnecessary and unreliable burden. The only problem we had switching from Windows was our proprietry accounts package.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412668)

"Bollocks. Avoiding vendor lock-in is a sound business philosophy for a cost sensitive small business. "

What is the dollar value of "avoiding vendor lock-in"? That's right, you did say it's a philosphy, so perhaps it's unconnected to the bottom line.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412996)

What is the dollar value of "avoiding vendor lock-in"?

It depends on the timescale. Philosophies rarely pay off during this quarter-year, but they can make a big difference in the long-term survival of the company and the society.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412998)

What is the dollar value of "avoiding vendor lock-in"?

i don't know it depends on what %Nextversion of the app will cost you ie
Oh The new version has some many %shiny features that we have to charge 12X to upgrade but we will charge you only 10X if you upgrade NOW (and in ?months oh Old version is no longer supported and your upgrade window has closed so you will now have to pay 20X and purchase a legacy migration tool at $$$$ per seat)

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

greenguy (162630) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413164)

WTF? A comment poo-pooing considerations of vendor lock-in gets modded to 4, and replies pointing out the importance controlling your own data get modded to 2 and 1, respectively?

Anyone who sneers as philosophy as being disconnected from real life (including "the bottom line") deserves to be modded into the ground. Exactly what do such people think philosophy is?

Re:Why? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412592)

All your points are valid. Here's the flip side (which I assume you'll appriciate):
All thosed licences *should* cost money. I know several small businesses with pirated apps and OS's. I myself used a pirated suite of OSs and such for quite some time. Margins are thin enough without paying M$ nearly a grand and a half for Office, OS, and sundry other apps, add another $2K to Adobe and that's a chunk of change when you are trying to start-up.

More than one of my clients has switched (or tried to till some wierd app that only runs on windows and won't run on WINE comes along, or till my admittedly weak Linux/WINE fu fails), simply to be leagal. That is as good a reason, if not better, than the "free is good".
-nB

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412690)

Oh, I own a tiny company, and I spend more than that. I've got about 10 machines, all with licensed W2K or XP. The kicker is that my point-of-sale software costs $1600/workstation, and I have 5 workstations, and support for this software is no more than two years. That's a *lot* of money for a six person company. But really, I have no alternative. It's a cost of doing business. There's no free alternatives to my POS software, and the OSS ones simply don't do what we need them to do (integrated credit card processing, integration with Quickbooks, Win 32 API to hook into our web site, etc.). So, I have to look at my business. My options are to spend $8K every few years of software, or try to run a retail store with more than 10,000 items and over $1M/year in sales with some kludged together OSS stuff that would take a *lot* more effort, and may not even be possible without spending about 20 years worth of licensing costs to pay somebody to develop something.

If I owned a white-collar business that used computers for basic word processing and email, then sure, it doesn't really matter what you use. But how often is that the case, in this day and age? My friend, an attorney (basic office job, right?), needed some good way to handle scheduling, contacts, email, etc. Of course, he went with Exchange. Why? After spending about 6 months looking for OSS solutions (and don't forget, he could have been using those hours to bill clients at $150/hour), he had lost a ton of money, he pissed off the other lawyers in the office with all of the software mess, and he looked very unprofessional when whatever he was using wasn't working, and he couldn't respond to his clients. Finally I told him to spend a hundred bucks a month on hosted Exchange service, and get on with his law business. Everything is running pretty smoothly in that office now.

Maybe, MAYBE if I ran, hmm... maybe a... hmmm... catering company, then OSS would work. All you need is some basic financial tracking (ooops... still no payroll), and something to print pretty estimates and invoices. But really, I can't think of a lot of businesses in this day and age that would be willing to do something so dramatic to save such a small amount of money (I spend about 30 times more on rent than I do on software).

Re:Why? (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412780)

Maybe, MAYBE if I ran, hmm... maybe a... hmmm... catering company, then OSS would work. All you need is some basic financial tracking (ooops... still no payroll), and something to print pretty estimates and invoices.

Or you could just run CaterEase (a Windows app) and forget about having to hack together some OSS solution. =)

Re:Why? (1)

vruz (468626) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413000)

have you had a look at jpos.org ?

they're friendly and will help you analyze alternatives

Re:Why? (1)

Galactic Dominator (944134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413176)

http://www.sql-ledger.org/ [sql-ledger.org] Now you don't need QB and can write your site to query the Postgres DB. There are also several OSS CRM packages each having their own strengths. vtiger is one...compiere another, opentaps another...compromises have to be made using virtually any software and the OSS CRM's/ERP's generally make their money helping you customize. Of course there are more issues here, but see it's OSS...you can fix it yourself. And even if you can't and require paid support, you can least count a moral victory by not perpetuating what's wrong w/ our current system.

Nice troll... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17413278)

OSS ones simply don't do what we need them to do ... Win 32 API


OSS apps happily do the rest of what you asked for - and the answer to this one is to *STOP* using the Win32 API which seems to be forcing you to make poor technology decisions across your organization.


Finally I told him to spend a hundred bucks a month on hosted Exchange service, and get on with his law business. Everything is running pretty smoothly in that office now.


Hope Microsoft gave you a nice large commission. I've been making my money recently migrating clients *AWAY* from hosted exchange services to Yahoo small business.

Re:Why? (1)

pogson (856666) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413286)

" It's a cost of doing business. There's no free alternatives to my POS software, and the OSS ones simply don't do what we need them to do (integrated credit card processing, integration with Quickbooks, Win 32 API to hook into our web site, etc.). So, I have to look at my business. My options are to spend $8K every few years of software, or try to run a retail store with more than 10,000 items and over $1M/year in sales with some kludged together OSS stuff that would take a *lot* more effort, and may not even be possible without spending about 20 years worth of licensing costs to pay somebody to develop something."

Why cannot you use a general purpose web application? (I assume you can use a web form to interact with your system.) That takes care of the web interface automatically. There are PHP scripts that do the credit card thing. That leaves only the accounting. Anyone who can write PHP/MySQL stuff can interact with accounting data and put it into a form needed for the accounting software. Likely it will be the usual stuff: invoice/deposit/withdrawal. It is not rocket science and routine. The trick to using FLOSS is to use as much of the libraries and already existing code as possible. Then you have only to write your custom small bit and interface them witht the rest. There are several decent accounting packages that could be used. Surely they have a simple way to move data into the system from the web application. Even if you do not make such a switch, a business should have a clear understanding of the flow of information. The flipside, using proprietary everything, is that someone else may own your data. Using FLOSS, you own your bits and you get to keep and use the other bits, so effectively, you own the code you use. No third party can mess with you. The purveyor of the POS apps can always dissappe...

Re:Why? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412310)

If you want to switch just for the sake of switching, then really, you should be fired.

It's just as logical to say that those who choose Microsoft should be fired and in your case I think something that exceeds 300 Fahrenheit would be wise.

Re:Why? (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412340)

As always, there's not enough information. Why do you want to do this? What are you trying to accomplish? What apps? How critical are they? If you want to switch just for the sake of switching, then really, you should be fired.
Dude, this is Slashdot. The benefits of switching to an Free/Open solution should be obvious.

At the very least, we can assume the goal here is to prise the organization from the jaws of Vendor Lock-In. A vendor like Microsoft has no reason to be nice to a small- to medium-sized company, and this leaves anyone locked in to a Microsoft system vunerable.

Also, despite all the "TCO" FUD Microsoft adversises, a move to a Free/Open solution can potentially save a lot of money. Not in all cases of course, but the question being asked isn't "Why should I?" but "How can I?". And I don't see any reason why the submitter should be assumed to be an idiot incapable of using proper judgement.

Re:Why? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412488)

A vendor like Microsoft has no reason to be nice to a small- to medium-sized company

What are you talking about? Microsoft makes a lot of their money off of smaller operations that use their products. MS utterly relies on third party consultants and expertise to deploy/support solutions for those users, and if that whole channel (including the end users) aren't kept happy and functioning, they'll lose a lot of mindshare.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412544)

A vendor like Microsoft has no reason to be nice to a small- to medium-sized company, and this leaves anyone locked in to a Microsoft system vunerable.

OK, let's think about this realistically. MS is the largest software company on the planet, with a financial statement that rivals the largest companies on the planet. They're not going away any time soon, and their OS is used everywhere. There are tons and tons of applications of all kinds that will work with Windows.

Case in point: basic small-business accounting software. There are tons to pick from that run on Windows. You can go down to your local office supply store, and pick one of a dozen, and they'll all do the job. If you switch to OSS, you have about one choice: Gnucash, and it's mediocre at best (let's forget that it doesn't have some critical functionality, such as payroll). If Gnucash, a piece of software being written by a handful of loosely-organized volunteers in their free time, getting paid nothing, happens to die for whatever reason (very possible), then you're quite literally, SOL, unless you're a big enough company that you can pay $150/hour for programmers to re-invent the features that exist in a $100 off-the-shelf package. If you're using Quickbooks, and for some bizarre reason, Intuit shuts down (very unlikely), then you pick up Peachtree, or any of the others, export and import your data, and you're back in business.

I won't consider going to OSS because the inadvertent lock-in from having a lack of choice is very real. If I were to switch my company to OSS alternatives, there's no doubt about it, I would be "locked-in" to using what few options there are. "Lock-in" on the MS platform is unlikely. Sure, it could theoretically happen, but it makes as much sense to worry about that as it does to worry about a comet hitting the Earth tomorrow.

I feel that is is much safer for a smaller company without deep pockets to stay with mainstream software, as much as possible. Buy whatever is generic and does the job, then move on to getting to the part of the business that pays the bills.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412712)

A vendor like Microsoft has no reason to be nice to a small- to medium-sized company, and this leaves anyone locked in to a Microsoft system vunerable.

I'm about to spend a lot more money with MS, as we migrate our point-of-sale systems to MS RMS. They have very helpful salespeople that are willing to hold my hand even though the total bill won't be in the 5 digits, and they even are financing it for me. MS is actually very easy for my small company to deal with.

and this leaves anyone locked in to a Microsoft system vunerable.

Vulnerable to what? Give me a real world scenario. I just don't see it.

Re:Why? (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412786)

MS is actually very easy for my small company to deal with

Faust? Is that you?

Re:Why? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412860)

Well, they are. If I don't like their software any more, I'll buy something else in a few years. I'm not selling them my soul. It's just software.

Why?-Gallows humour. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412974)

"Vulnerable to what? Give me a real world scenario. I just don't see it."

Vunerable to insults and put-downs from the "I don't like MS" crowd. Now don't you feel naked?

Re:Why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412716)

"Dude, this is Slashdot. The benefits of switching to an Free/Open solution should be obvious."

Wouldn't it be more truthful to say "Dude, this is Slashdot. The benefits of switching to an Free/Open solution were handed down from the God RMS so no other opinions are tolerated."

Re:Why? (1)

electricon (995933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412640)

If you want to switch just for the sake of switching, then really, you should be fired.
You must be new here.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

pogson (856666) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412864)

"If you want to switch just for the sake of switching, then really, you should be fired."

No one wants to waste time and money switching for the sake of switching. Most open-minded IT folks understand:

  • Windows is fragile compared to a UNIX/POSIX OS.
  • Microsoft has a monopoly. It costs money to buy from a monopoly. Competition is almost always better. Let Windows compete on its merits by examining alternatives.
  • There are tens of thousands of malwares out there looking for Windows systems.
  • Microsoft likes to force huge costs when "end-of-support" for one of its releases is reached. This makes the locked-in folks believe Windows is relatively cheaper.
  • Most organizations that switch to GNU/Linux cover their costs in reduced maintenance the first year. If specialty apps block the switch, perhaps the mistake made to go with those apps is better corrected sooner rather than later. Accept no app that is not designed with portability in mind. If a business is valuable, you do not want Microsoft or any Microsoft partners controlling it.
  • What will you do when the hardware finally dies and your version of Windows cannot understand the new stuff you buy? You will have to replace everything eventually, anyway. Do it sooner rather than later and use FLOSS as much as possible to prevent a recurrence.

In my work, I helped a school switch when they moved to a new building. Previously they had on-site personnel to manage hardware and software. Now they can go many months without intervention. The conversion costs over and above the new hardware which they were going to buy anyway was $5000 and an hour long introduction to the new software. By now that cost is all recovered. They should not have to do major hardware upgrade for ten years and software is continually upgraded from the distro in a few minutes as desired. By not installing Windows, the cost of the IT system would have been cut in two except that they had a sum in the budget and spent it to get twice the capability. There has been no downtime since a faulty memory module was replaced after some weeks of operation. Earlier we did need to replace a driver for video. That was done in the off hours.

Granted we had no "specialty" apps, but we have way more software now than we did last year.

The librarian did insist on using proprietary software. The shrinkwrap was lost in the mail and her library is still not functional although we had a FLOSS web app available early on if she had chosen to use it. What is the cost of delayed implementation of a major component of our business?

All of your issues are no problem. (3, Informative)

Shaman (1148) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412198)

We have a single W2K3 system which serves up a couple of legacy apps over RDP (Rdesktop) and integration with Samba, etc. has gone well for us. The standard KDE applications work fine although you do have to choose your distribution, largely because Flash can hang and/or crash Konqueror on a regular basis (blame Flash, not Konq).

The only issue we have run in to is that Windows will only let you log in with RDP so many times before it will blacklist your machine's hostname for not having a genuine MS license. It's a pain but we just more or less randomize the hostname regularly. Good old Micro$oft... they won't even let you administratively remove the blacklisting without delving into the Registry (haven't tried that, but I figure it must be possible). This happens infrequently, by the way, W2k3 will probably accept a good 100 connections before it whines.

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (1)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412220)

Or maybe just stay legal and this isn't an issue at all.

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412248)

He *is* legal, his client box runs Linux (see the rdesktop reference.)

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (3, Informative)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412294)

He *is* legal, his client box runs Linux (see the rdesktop reference.)
Yeah, but MS requires Terminal Services Licenses for the clients. These come with XP but would theoretically need to be purchased from MS if connecting with other clients. In addition, you probably need to have enough CALs too, depending on what the servers are being used for (for example, a Win2k3 SBS comes with only 5 CALs). I had to research this whole scam^H^H^H^Hscheme back in the Win2k Server days and it's a total bitch. Apparently it's even more convoluted in 2k3...

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (2, Interesting)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412372)

Fortunately most of us live in a country (the USA) where MS doesn't have the authority to "require licenses".

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (1)

doj8 (542402) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413398)

Terminal Server Licenses do not come with Windows XP when you are using Terminal Server on Windows Server 2003. That was true on Windows Server 2000, but even that ended about a year ago. You need to buy a client license for each user, irrespective of what operating system (Windows XP or Linux) they are running for any version of Terminal Server now.

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (1)

Shaman (1148) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412328)

[b]Yeah, but MS requires Terminal Services Licenses for the clients. These come with XP but would theoretically need to be purchased from MS if connecting with other clients.[/b]

Nope. I'm not using any Microsoft software on the client. Just need to buy the CAL (which in itself is totally bollocks, IMHO) and you're in. The problem is that M$ also wants to be paid for the client, which is really double dipping.

They could use ICA client as well, but in my experience the ICA client for Linux is pretty particular about the distribution and versions of libraries, whereas you can recompile rdesktop any time you want... and it's in the distributions itself.

Re:All of your issues are no problem. (1)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412502)

I'm not using any Microsoft software on the client. Just need to buy the CAL (which in itself is totally bollocks, IMHO) and you're in. The problem is that M$ also wants to be paid for the client, which is really double dipping.
They are actually trying to triple-dip:

"In addition to a server license, a Windows Server Client Access License (CAL) is required. If you wish to conduct a Windows session, an incremental Terminal Server Client Access License (TS CAL) is required as well."
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/howtobu y/licensing/ts2003.mspx#EWC [microsoft.com]

Start with your applications. (2, Interesting)

jonadab (583620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412206)

> however a couple of our core applications run exclusively on Windows

Then that is where you have to start.

Yes, you could insert a couple of Linux systems in side roles that don't require them to run the core apps, e.g., a DNS server here and a CGI server there and so on and so forth -- and that's likely worth doing for its own sake -- but if you want to migrate entirely off of Windows, you've first got to migrate to all cross-platform applications.

Re:Start with your applications. (2, Insightful)

wynler (678277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412312)

Absolutely 100% correct.  If you have a small company, and applications that require Windows.  You don't switch to Linux.

Re:Start with your applications. (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412654)

But you can switch to apps that do NOT require Windows first.

Re:Start with your applications. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412774)

But you have to find them first.

Re:Start with your applications. (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413050)

Of course you do! But that's not a reason not to at least look for them or find alternatives.

Freedom doesn't mean your decisions are going to be effortless. Before you can decide whether to take the left or right fork in the road, you first have to get your freaking butt off the road dirt. People who whine that they have no choice but to use Windows should at least have the decency to get off the road so other people stop tripping over them.

Re:Start with your applications. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413210)

There must be a poet somewhere deep inside you :-)

My largest problem is with MS Office. There is no equivalent replacement that would be acceptable for business purposes. Truth be told, it's not easy to make an office suite that has so few bugs that it is considered to be useful. First releases of MS Word were awful, and it took MS a lot of time (10 years?) to get to the point where it is actually stable. Don't know how good Office 2007 is though, and not in any hurry to check it out.

In any case, OpenOffice is the only other game in town, and it is no good. At least it was no good at all when I tried it last time. It opened other people's .doc files, but hardly any of them was opened "just as" MS Word would do it. I don't even call it a bug - the .doc format is not exactly an ISO standard - but the fact is that if just one document out of a hundred is wrong the whole package is dropped. You can't just tell the boss that "tables here and margins there are outside of the paper, and that's why you can't see them... oh, you MUST see them, since the author OBVIOUSLY saw them when he entered the data? Hmm, let me post a message on a forum and I will be back to you in a few days... Oh, you need the data RIGHT AWAY ? Hmm, we have that laptop with MS Office, it will do the trick..."

So yes, searching is good, but it takes time away from your main business (one of other posters mentioned a tale of a lawyers' office). And often I *know* already that there is no replacement for QuickBooks (GnuCash is not acceptable) and no replacement for MS Office, and no replacement for AutoCAD (not even on Windows, please keep the Intellicad $stuff, it's not working :-), and no replacement for many other professional s/w packages that I know everything about. And I know that it will take a lifetime to write any of those from scratch, so I don't hold my breath. And I say so here because that's what the discussion is about.

Don't limit yourself this way. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412956)

... if you want to migrate entirely off of Windows, you've first got to migrate to all cross-platform applications.

No, all that you should worry about is data continuity. Your criteria, which sounds reasonable, removes KDE and other best of class choices from consideration. Why do that if the substitute application can use the data without problem and then do many more things with it? KDE's groupware is excellent and as good a reason as any to migrate away from Windows. Not considering it because it won't run on Windoze is silly. You are moving away from Windoze because the Windoze world is limited, why constrain yourself to the even smaller world of stuff that runs on Windoze and Linux? If you can suck up your company's data and your employees can continue to use it you have everything you need.

Re:Don't limit yourself this way. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17413034)

twitter [slashdot.org], please read this carefully. Following this advice will make Slashdot a better place for everyone, including yourself.

  • As a representative of the Linux community, participate in mailing list and newsgroup discussions in a professional manner. Refrain from name-calling and use of vulgar language. Consider yourself a member of a virtual corporation with Mr. Torvalds as your Chief Executive Officer. Your words will either enhance or degrade the image the reader has of the Linux community.
  • Avoid hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims at all costs. It's unprofessional and will result in unproductive discussions.
  • A thoughtful, well-reasoned response to a posting will not only provide insight for your readers, but will also increase their respect for your knowledge and abilities.
  • Always remember that if you insult or are disrespectful to someone, their negative experience may be shared with many others. If you do offend someone, please try to make amends.
  • Focus on what Linux has to offer. There is no need to bash the competition. Linux is a good, solid product that stands on its own.
  • Respect the use of other operating systems. While Linux is a wonderful platform, it does not meet everyone's needs.
  • Refer to another product by its proper name. There's nothing to be gained by attempting to ridicule a company or its products by using "creative spelling". If we expect respect for Linux, we must respect other products.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Linux is just the kernel. Without the efforts of people involved with the GNU project , MIT, Berkeley and others too numerous to mention, the Linux kernel would not be very useful to most people.
  • Don't insist that Linux is the only answer for a particular application. Just as the Linux community cherishes the freedom that Linux provides them, Linux only solutions would deprive others of their freedom.
  • There will be cases where Linux is not the answer. Be the first to recognize this and offer another solution.

From http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/docs/HOWTO/Advoca cy [ibiblio.org]

VMware Server, Converter Beta (3, Informative)

Semireg (712708) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412260)

Next year much of the server and desktop hardware we run will need replacing.
Migrate your servers to virtual machines. You can do this for free using Cent OS as the host, and VMware Server (free) software to run virtual machines. The VMware Converter (now in beta) will allow you to p2v, or migrate physical-to-virtual machines and this is done while the source server is powered on. So, regardless if you're going to Linux right now, you can make the jump to hardware-agnostic VMs with just a few clicks, and no extra money spent. Right away, you'll gain flexibility by utilizing your new hardware more efficiently. Good luck!

P2V IS TOO EXPENSIVE (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412346)

Have you actually tried to purchase a license for P2V ? The tool is licensed on the number of uses, and it isn't cheap.

A better bet is a combination of BartPE and GHOST. As long as the server have some form of IDE device the Ghosted image will come up just fine under Vmware, and you can then go and add/move disks around.

P2V is an enterprise tool - definitely out of reach for small shops

Re:P2V IS TOO EXPENSIVE (1)

Semireg (712708) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412400)

This is not P2V. VMware Converter is the successor to VMware P2V. VMware Converter is absolutely free [vmware.com] at this point, with just a few little bugs, and a few missing features. Once officially released it will come bundled with a VMware VirtualCenter license, or free but with a limited feature set. In my experience BartBE and Ghost is a last resort for P2Vs. The converter tool will not only replace the drivers so there is no "New Hardware Found" caveats, but it also has the option to configure the new machine's identity using sysprep. If you're looking to spend money on a good P2V tool, check out PlateSpin PowerConvert [platespin.com].

Slow slow slow (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412508)

Virtual servers, remote desktop etc is less responsive. Sure, it depends what applications you're using, but anything like Photoshop or video is out of the window as speed is critical.

My Office (3, Informative)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412262)

My current boss, a close friend of mine, single-handedly began a FOSS migration in our 3-location 100-desktop 20-offsite-laptop-user office about a year ago. I came on board about 3 months ago, almost through the first stages of the process. We now have 99% of our users on OpenOffice (one holdout, and I am going to fix his missing feature ASAP to get him off Excel), and 100% migrated away from IE+Outlook (most on Firefox+Thunderbird, a few people requested Mac desktops and are using Safari+Mail). We transitioned to Open Directory on an OS X Server with nary a hitch, with the added bonus that OD supports LDAP which means it plays nice with all of our new extranet and internet services (LDAP login to our helpdesk, CMS, etc).

Eventually Windows XP will lose support and we will have to consider sticking with unsupported XP, or moving to Vista/Fiji/Vienna, or a complete migration to Mac, or a final alternative that I am starting to push slowly up the list of possibilities... Linux. My boss is a Mac user, he dislikes many of the problems with Windows. He had the popular misconception that Linux is hard to install, hard to maintain, and hard to use in general. My first day, when provided free reign over my own desktop, I let him watch me go through a Kubuntu installation. Cleared up all that nonsense right quick. From a blank hard drive to a better-than-Explorer GUI, with both of our network printers completely configured, desktop shortcuts to our network shares, Firefox and Thunderbird installed as well as a GUI terminal (we have legacy apps requiring telnet to our SCO UNIX machine), all in under 30 minutes, and without touching a text console.

Running actual GUI Windows applications in Linux CAN be difficult, but often is not. There is a VERY good chance that they will 'Just Work' under WINE or Crossover Office. If you need terminal services functionality, rdesktop has worked great for me. There is also the VMWare/etc option, if the programs are old enough for the perfomance hit to not matter (and if you're developing "core" applications that only run on Windows TODAY, then youve got other problems).

Open Office + VB ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412448)

We now have 99% of our users on OpenOffice (one holdout, and I am going to fix his missing feature ASAP to get him off Excel)
Just out of curiosity how well do OOo Basic and Calc handle Excel documents with hevy duty VB content? The reason I ask is that I am a Corporate Mac and Linux user and since MS Office for Mac won't be supporting VB in it's next iteration I'll have to convert to a spreadsheet editor that handles VB enabled Excel files properly some time soon. If all else fails I suppose my last hope is Wine....

Re:Open Office + VB ? (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412700)

I am not really sure. We never had much like that. One option to consider, that I am completely unfamiliar with the details of, is that there is some way to create self-contained executables from scripted Excel and Access interfaces. I have never done it myself, but I have used the results. You may want to consider something similar with the binaries running as mentioned previously for windows apps.

Re:Open Office + VB ? (0)

darkonc (47285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413296)

OO is free [openoffice.org], so I suggest that you download a copy and find out for yourself. (( then come back and tell us how it went. ))

That's the nice thing about Open Source and Free software -- It doesn't cost you anything to do a quick test, (and you always have th choice of fixing any deal-busters on your own dime).

Just out of curiosity how well do OOo Basic and Calc handle Excel documents with hevy duty VB content?

Re:My Office (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412566)

There is also the VMWare/etc option, if the programs are old enough for the perfomance hit to not matter

One comment about this: The VMWare "performance hit" is overblown, IMO. As long as the machine has enough RAM to give both the host and guest operating systems what they need, VMWare virtual machines run at very close to native speed. In most cases, no one will be able to tell the difference between VMWare in fullscreen mode and Windows running natively on the machine.

The one real exception that I've noticed is that disk I/O can be greatly degraded if you make use of snapshots. That makes sense, because writing one page to "disk" requires not only the main copy of the "disk" to be updated, but some number of snapshot files to be updated as well. In many cases, snapshotting is so convenient that it's worth the performance hit, but it's optional so you can make that decision yourself.

Provide the complete analysis first (2, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412360)

One computer costs $1,000 in hardware. One employee costs $120,000 per year, with burdening. One "mission-critical" application costs anywhere from $800 (AutoCAD 2007) to $5,000 (Inventor 11, non-pro.) One WinXP Pro license costs mere $150 even if you buy it at maximum cost, as a retail box. Now, aren't you putting the cart way ahead of the horse? A single wasted hour of any of your employees' time (or your own) will cost as much as an XP Pro license. Have your numbers straight before switching, and have very good reasons to switch.

The problem with businesses is that they are not very open to OS theology; businesses just want to do what they are doing, and if the job requires computers and OS and apps and stuff, well - that's just the cost of doing business. It will cost money to run a Linux shop, and it will be probably *more expensive* to run a Linux shop, considering that every Windows app -- that normally would be "install and run" on any Windows box -- becomes a WINE nightmare, to see where it crashes and how to work around those crashes. Do you really want to buy a $20,000 app (there are plenty of specialty apps in this price range, all mission-critical) just to find out that no, it won't run under WINE, and no, vendor support in such environment is not provided. Do you want to lose the support on such an expensive app? You are risking not just your job, you are risking jobs of your coworkers too - if the company loses a contract because of OS troubles then some employees may need to be laid off, starting with you, of course.

If you have dreams about using RDP for those few apps that you must have on Windows, it depends on what those apps are. Some apps do not permit running under RDP because that would be inviting to buy one copy of an app and then have the whole company to access the server and run the thing. I personally know of some examples, so check before you buy into it. And other posters already said that the cost of a terminal license is as high as WinXP, and you have all the eggs in one basket (server.) Server dies - the whole company stops; are you OK with that?

Again, businesses don't want anything that deviates from tried, tested and true path. Cost is not a concern here; labor and apps cost uncountably more than the OS. If you want to migrate, you still can do that; I tried myself, starting with a 3-man company, and guess what eventually happened? Once we started growing, the total cost of maintenance of a mixed network shot through the roof (and disappeared among the stars.) Now we stick to Linux on firewalls, and Windows XP everywhere else. We do use Linux on our embedded systems, and it's perfect there. Desktops are a different matter.

Have your numbers straight (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412494)

xp pro costs double that, full retail.

Re:Have your numbers straight (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412650)

Prices vary wildly; this one [pricegrabber.com] is $180, and this one [radioshack.com] is $330. Non-retail, as you get from Dell or HP, is of course cheaper still.

Re:Have your numbers straight (2, Insightful)

anomaly (15035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412782)

Ok. You're right. That means that 2 hours of employee time make up for the cost of one Windows XP license.

Please don't misunderstand - F/OSS provides LOTS of great software, but I don't see any way you can pencil the cost of Linux as a desktop replacement for Windows. Linux makes just about everything possible. (FWIW, I have been a daily Linux user since 1994.) Just because it's possible doesn't make it a good idea. Just because it's cool doesn't make it make any business sense, either.

All of the software/hardware vendors work their butts off to make sure that Windows compatibility is met. This doesn't mean that they do it well, but they don't care about any other OS. You can care, and if you select peripherals well, it won't be any issue at all. What happens when one of your "important" users goes out and finds a great deal on a digital camera/printer/trackpad/some other device which is completely unsupported in Linux?

It's not worth fighting the battle for the desktop. Linux is not complete enough yet for non-technical users to have. Linux on the server makes great sense, and I highly recommend it. (Although at home I just migrated all of my services to OS X.)

Respectfully,
Anomaly

Re:Provide the complete analysis first (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412584)

``A single wasted hour of any of your employees' time (or your own) will cost as much as an XP Pro license.''

But won't XP Pro cause its own wasted hours of employee time? Malware, crashes, sluggishness, ...

Re:Provide the complete analysis first (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412704)

Not really. A properly administered network has minimal, and filtered, access to the Internet, and your employees aren't supposed to surf pr0n sites at work. A typical use of a business computer is to work with spreadsheets, create and edit documents, drawings, send and receive emails using Thunderbird, or browse Digi-Key or Mouser catalogs using Firefox. An engineer would be using his CAD to create models of mechanical parts, or electrical diagrams, or RF simulations. This works, and the proof of the pudding is you know where. Per my observations, people stopped rebooting their computers daily since Win98.

Warped Analysis (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413020)

One computer costs $1,000 in hardware. One employee costs $120,000 per year, with burdening. One "mission-critical" application costs anywhere from $800 (AutoCAD 2007) to $5,000 (Inventor 11, non-pro.) One WinXP Pro license costs mere $150 ...

Software costs are a burden. Employees are productive assets.

The rest of your analysis is based on the presumption that Windows works. If that was true, no one would be considering a migration.

Re:Warped Analysis (2, Informative)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413108)

Software costs are a burden. Employees are productive assets.

Software and hardware costs, rent, business licenses, salaries and taxes are your business expenses. It does not matter what names you use; it only matters what you pay for. If you rent a tool, it's out of your pocket. If you hire an employee, it's out of your pocket. Money-wise they are the same.

The rest of your analysis is based on the presumption that Windows works. If that was true, no one would be considering a migration.

Modern Windows works, that's not the problem. IMO, one of primary motives to migrate to F/OSS is costs of licensing. Windows-only infrastructure may be expensive if you go beyond the desktop and start buying PDC, BDC, TS, SBS, Exchange and other servers that MS will happily sell you. That's where the real cost is - server license, CAL licenses, TS licenses... start counting. That's what I consider a motivation. Cost of a desktop OS is nothing. Cost of several Win2k3 servers, each with full complement of CALs for all your employees, can be devastating.

Re:Warped Analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17413266)

twitter [slashdot.org], please read this carefully. Following this advice will make Slashdot a better place for everyone, including yourself.

  • As a representative of the Linux community, participate in mailing list and newsgroup discussions in a professional manner. Refrain from name-calling and use of vulgar language. Consider yourself a member of a virtual corporation with Mr. Torvalds as your Chief Executive Officer. Your words will either enhance or degrade the image the reader has of the Linux community.
  • Avoid hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims at all costs. It's unprofessional and will result in unproductive discussions.
  • A thoughtful, well-reasoned response to a posting will not only provide insight for your readers, but will also increase their respect for your knowledge and abilities.
  • Always remember that if you insult or are disrespectful to someone, their negative experience may be shared with many others. If you do offend someone, please try to make amends.
  • Focus on what Linux has to offer. There is no need to bash the competition. Linux is a good, solid product that stands on its own.
  • Respect the use of other operating systems. While Linux is a wonderful platform, it does not meet everyone's needs.
  • Refer to another product by its proper name. There's nothing to be gained by attempting to ridicule a company or its products by using "creative spelling". If we expect respect for Linux, we must respect other products.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Linux is just the kernel. Without the efforts of people involved with the GNU project , MIT, Berkeley and others too numerous to mention, the Linux kernel would not be very useful to most people.
  • Don't insist that Linux is the only answer for a particular application. Just as the Linux community cherishes the freedom that Linux provides them, Linux only solutions would deprive others of their freedom.
  • There will be cases where Linux is not the answer. Be the first to recognize this and offer another solution.

From http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/docs/HOWTO/Advoca cy [ibiblio.org]

Re:Provide the complete analysis first (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413480)

The problem with businesses is that they are not very open to OS theology; businesses just want to do what they are doing

Some of us would argue that this is not a problem, but a feature.

UltraVNC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412384)

UltraVNC [uvnc.com] is wonderful. Even shares the clipboard and does file transfers. It would be fine if only one person needs to connect with a Windows computer at a time.

Talk to the users first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412406)

1) Find out what they do
2) Find out what applications/services they use to perform 1
3) Identify what alternatives there are to 2
4) Determine where people can switch to these alternatives
5) Develop a (costed) plan
6) Talk to management and enlist their support. Hightlight both the benefits and the problems.
7) If management are happy with what you propose, then try piloting a couple of users (or build a test lab) and confirm that it will work
8) If you get this far, just do it.

The key is not to look at a philosophical switch from MS to something else - but simply treat it as a transition from one generation of technology to another. You may want to transpose 6 & 7 if management are happier seeing before comitting.

Look at the "why" first. (4, Insightful)

mrscott (548097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412436)

Ok - since this is Slashdot, I expect to be thrashed for looking at this from the business perspective (I'm a CIO with 13 years of IT experience). The first question to ask yourself is this: "Why?"

Ok, I'll be the first to admit that there is a tremedous lure to FOSS software and have rolled it out myself in a number of situations, but not to desktops. I've replaced web servers, database servers and Windows file servers with servers running Apache, PostgreSQL and Samba. However, before I considered something like this in my current environment, I'd need to do a serious cost analysis that went way beyond licensing costs. For example, what will this mean to the user that has been using Windows and MS Office for 10 years? And, you mentioned that some of your core applications are Windows-only affairs. Sure, you can use RDP/Citrix to run these apps, but then you're throwing the Windows licensing costs into the mix. Not to mention the possibility that your apps won't like running in this way.

So, how much is your infrastructure *really* costing you?

How much would retraining cost?

How much would it cost to possibly have to give up your core vendor support due to running in an potentially unsupported configuration?

This may sound like I'm anti-FOSS. Actually, I'm not - I love FOSS in the right situation. WHat I AM against is FOSS for the sake of FOSS. While I "grew up" on the IT side of the house, I'm a big believer in the business needs dictating IT's role and responsiblity rather than the other way around.

My advice: Think this through before you put a lot of time into it. You may end up saving a whole lot more (not just money) by sticking with what works.

Re:Look at the "why" first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412880)

No way in hell you are CIO.... you know what you are talking about.

I have over 20 years Corperate experience Anyone that is a Cxx is a idiot in technology. Hell Director and above is typically not capable of even installing Windows XP on a computer let alone making decidions for the IT department...

If you ARE a real CIO.... where do you work?? I am all over working in heaven where the executives actually know about what hey are in charge of.

My last CIO could not figure out how to work a palm pilot and had tech support out to his HOUSE to fix his wireless... he shut off the radio and did not know how to turn it back on. CIO that cant do any of that is useless to a company.

Re:Look at the "why" first. (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413006)

I tried this once. It worked well under Win2K server, and the old licensing regime. For the new one, I paid almost as much in client access licenses as I would have for Windows XP licenses. As an academic shop, our costs were low enough for that to make sense, but for those of you in the real world, I'd be more careful.

We ran into a couple of issues. The easily solved one was multiple copies of Office and Matlab are resource hogs. Get a large application server for those, and look into some sort of clustering. The harder issue was that some software actually sniffs to see if you're running on a remote session, and refuses to start if you are.

To an extent, this worked great, as the desktops were more secure and easier to manage, while the Windows boxes transitioned from whatever Dell had cheap that month to multi-proc systems with hardware RAID, high-speed SCSI drives, and redundant power supplies. The only real lossage occurred for those users who needed high-performance 3d rendering on Windows, and most of them were easily transitioned to Linux equivalents. You may wish to consider getting WinTerms if you go this route, as those have fewer parts to maintain and fewer ways for employees to tinker with them.

Quite seriously, you may wish to give Sun Sunrays http://www.sun.com/software/index.jsp?cat=Desktop& tab=3&subcat=Sun%20Ray%20Clients/url [sun.com] and Secure Global desktop http://www.sun.com/software/products/sgd/index.jsp /url [sun.com] a look. It will run from a Linux server, so it's on the right path from your perspective. One past job used an earlier version of this technology for student kiosks in the library, and it cut our maintenance headaches versus real PCs. Just a thought.

Re:Look at the "why" first. (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413404)

I'm kinda in the same position. 12 years of experience working mostly on WAN and LAN/MAN backbone links. My vision is very skewed. On the backbone, things "just work". If they don't, KDDI, ATT, Cisco, Juniper, and other companies send a *very* skilled tech to look at our problems. 24*7*365 I can get a tech on-site in under an hour.

When I went over to the dark side (doing server to switch to user support), I was shocked. Everything sucked so bad. I had 300 users with different installs, different software, and different problems.

My first step was to install SNMP and set up traps for disk full, memory full, CPU utilization, things like that.

The "Why" of linux came down to this: the ability to easily standardize desktops and easily back-up and restore a user's PC. In Linux, I know all the users' files are in /home I can easily set up scripts on a server to back up those files nightly. If a user's PC breaks, I can easily copy his profile to a laptop and have him back up within an hour.

VMware with a NLITE cut-down version of WinXP allows us to access crap web apps that demand IE.

We had a few people who complained about the lack of Access in Linux. I set aside some money to train them on MySQL and PHP. Within a week, they were building the same Access apps in a browser-compatible interface.

We had a few people complain about OO scripting support. They wanted things like spreadsheets that automatically turn past-due dates red and such. A few hours on IRC and that was solved.

Corporate recently began touting SharePoint. We've been using Wikimedia for shared document access for over a year.

The one "why" for linux for me is the fact that I can easily back up and restore a desktop PC in a short time. The "how" is that you look for alternatives where you can, and use VMWare where you can't.

AD (1)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412440)

Can't Linux clients participate in an active directory domain? It's probably not a bad idea to migrate in small stages, get people used (including the admin staff!) to each chunk before you move on.

Stage 1: Open Office, Firefox on the desktop.
Stage 2: Start migrating storage to a Samba server.
Stage 3: Set up your terminal server and provide clients on the Windows desktops. Only add new apps to the terminal server from this point on (so people start using it).
Stage 4: Get a couple of Linux machines out into each department for testing and gather feedback on what else users think they need.
Stage 5: Address problems (in writing, with sign off) brought up at stage 4.
Stage 6: Retire Windows machines slowly.
Stage 7: Test and deploy a Linux based PDC.

This will let you reduce your risk exposure as each step in itself is not that expensive and pretty easy to back out of. It'll set your users expectations, ensure service is continuous, and keep down the risk of everything blowing up at once and souring people permanently on open source solutions.

Re:AD (2, Insightful)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412486)

Oh, and when putting machines out for testing you have a good opportunity to help manipulate the users.

Make the test machines pretty spiffy. Get some flat panel displays for example, if you haven't already got them deployed. Draw lots for who gets the 'first upgrades' rather than allocating it out like it's work.

Properly set up (if your office is anything like mine just set the default screensaver to the 3D matrix one and make them dual screen machines) you will get huge enthusiasm for 'the upgrade' rather than bitching about how everything is now insignificantly different.

Re:AD (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412912)

Stage 8 scream OH CRAP as you find out that AD is not supported as a PDC on samba. return to step 1 and replace AD completely with LDAP.

Active Directory is an abortion that needs to be eratdicated on the first step so you dont get it ingraned in the company. Kerbos and LDAP first, switch the BACKEND way before the frontend and clients.

It's far easier to swap out the servers without impacting the users... after you get rid of the MS only services then the desktop rollout is far easier.

Eliminate exchange is STEP #1. then migrate to kerbos and LDAP, then migrate the servers over and finally start on the desktops.

The funny part is evolution for windows works quite nice... so getting people used to a non exchange based email/groupware is easier...

LDAP Is Much Easier Than Active Directory (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412506)

Having worked on both, I can promise you that you will be happier with implementing an LDAP solution. Let's step aside right now. Your problem is now how to migrate your AD stuff to LDAP. Just step back and remember what you're trying to accomplish. You need to do Authent & Authoriz for users. Build that directly without worrying how the AD world does it. We did a migration from LDAP to AD (the customer demanded it--their legacy was AD) and we had ten-thousand more problems getting Active Directory to work. Therefore, I know you will find the reverse is much simpler. Don't try to make a hybrid--just start over with LDAP and your requirements. Don't keep the AD blinders on. As for your other application issues, you will have your own troubles with those. Still, going to the Linux, Java world, you will find life so much easier than in the MS world, in my opinion.

Reading Is Much Easier Than guessing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412686)

"We did a migration from LDAP to AD (the customer demanded it--their legacy was AD) and we had ten-thousand more problems getting Active Directory to work."

That's what books like this are for. [amazon.com] USE THEM!

As Others Have Pointed Out (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412536)

...the issues are: what ARE your "core applications"? How MANY users are there that NEED them (which translates into license costs)? Can those apps be run in some other way than currently done?

If you have core apps which are PACKAGED third party apps that you need to run and cannot alter yourself, then you'll have to find a way to run them if you want to switch.

OTOH, if your core apps are DEVELOPED third party apps - start planning on how to either get those third parties to port them to Linux, or, better, hire new developers to develop new versions using OSS cross-platform tools like Java - which in many cases might get you altogether better software using newer technologies.

I know, I know, most SMBs can't afford to pay for third party development, let alone in-house development. Nonetheless, there ARE developers out there who are affordable and who can probably do the job at a cost an SMB can afford - IF the SMB PLANS and BUDGETS for this development in a reasonable manner (meaning no "We need it next week" bullcrap - take your time.)

As for the rest, any SMB can be converted to Linux/OSS aside from non-portable core applications. And core applications can frequently be handled by either Terminal Services or conversion. The issues in most cases are training and support - both of which can be solved by hiring a Linux/OSS trainer and/or consultant to deal with those issues. This needn't cost the earth either, again, if you PLAN for it.

I signed a client this week who HAS to run Adobe software - he runs an AV conversion company that relies on Adobe (and other multimedia) Windows-only software. He told me he would switch to Linux in a heartbeat, because he knows Windows is not reliable or secure - but he can't without Adobe software. He has ten terabytes of data he needs backed up - and I'm pitching versions of rsync and rdiff-backup (on Windows under Cygwin or Windows only versions of rsync) to show him how flexible OSS software is compared to commercial Windows backup utilities. Later, I'll see what can be done about his Adobe requirements, if anything.

It all depends on what the SMB is DOING and HOW they are doing it. Many SMBs could easily convert to Linux/OSS - others need to wait and PLAN for such a conversion when the necessary solutions appear - as they inevitably will over time.

Use Dummy Terminals (1)

keithcybin (998278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412576)

Ncomputing has an excellent Ultra Thin Client (ncomputing.com L200). Use this dummy terminal to connect to the windows terminal server which holds your apps. Then put the dummy terminal on a KVM switch with your Linux machine. End of story.

Not sure about your set up but ... (1)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412590)

You might not need LDAP (except for email client address look ups). Microsoft has a much more complicated way of handling user accounts that *nix does. At the most basic level a user exists in Linux if they have an entry in a plain text password file. Of course they'll probably need a home directory as well but it's pretty simple stuff, no database necessary. If you do need it, try openldap.

I switched a company of about 400 users with 2T of data from Windows, Netware, and Lotus Mail to Linux. I started by replacing the mail relay with sendmail, then moved the mailboxes to POP and IMAP on Linux. I used openldap for mail address lookups/auto complete for mail c lients. I used Samaba and Netatalk as fileservers for Windows and Macs. After that I set up DHCP and DNS. Next came apache for web services. I even built a nice java app to organize employee info with tomcat as the container and using MySQL for a small database that pulled info into a web browser (phone extensions, employee locations, department, supervisor's name, etc.). I did live online backups using rsync in a shell script. The company saved about $100K in proprietary licenses and service contracts. I got a nice $25K bonus as a sign of their appreciation.

Having been a Windows admin, Linux was a relief. I could actually open the hood and see how things worked. Trouble shooting was much easier. Plus there seemed to be nothing I couldn't automate. Remember, bash is your friend.

Not sure about your set up but ...WMI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412792)

"Having been a Windows admin, Linux was a relief. I could actually open the hood and see how things worked. Trouble shooting was much easier. Plus there seemed to be nothing I couldn't automate. Remember, bash is your friend."

And WMI and [wikipedia.org]WSH [wikipedia.org] are a Window's Admin's best friend

lucky you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412810)

The office I work in is slowly being assimilated into using microsoft products, after running since forever on Linux, Solaris, BSD, etc, on both server & desktop. It's all because there is no open source exchange server equivalent, but instead there are 500 million independent half-assed attempts at it.

:-(

Moving small organizations from Windows (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412818)

I am looking for creative ways to introduce Linux as my desktop and server OS of choice

Hold up, there, cowboy. That is the wrong question to ask.

The systems and servers aren't your personal plaything. They are there to meet the needs of your employer. The small organization. The all-Windows shop.

There are often reasons for choosing the proprietary app. The predominant OS for a business of your size or type or location. Reasons that are not always narrowly technical, not always narrowly economic.

Use Windows clients with VNC (1)

sunset (182117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412976)

Do it the other way around. You can set up one or more beefy machines running Linux and serving VNC sessions to desktop machines running minimal Windows XP installations. Users can run under Windows what they must, and everything else via their VNC client.

This simplifies/centralizes Linux maintenance, reduces the maintenance complexity of the desktops, and minimizes the need for desktop hardware and software upgrades.

Server Virtualization (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413204)

The path to getting what you want is via "server virtualization". This path is working even at large corporations.

It's quite easy to build a case for the benefits of virtualizing your server hardware so you're managing several disk images on a redundant cluster of physical servers. Once you get your shit working under VMware or maybe even qemu, it's easy to build the server farm on VMware ESX server (which only runs on Linux) or etc. After that, you can start deploying other new services more natively on Linux, using Xen, whatever.

Don't bother migrating your old applications yet, just show what new applications can be hosted on Linux that fill a gap. Think the "linux server that does everything".

Good luck!

If your core apps run on Windows... (3, Interesting)

slk (2510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413346)

Then you probably need to be running Windows, at least on the client.

I have a day job as the head system administrator for a medium sized but very high-tech non-profit. We run Macintosh (OSX) clients and Linux servers because they do what we need to do, and do it well. I have also been working with Linux and various other forms of Unix since 1994 (this includes using Linux and/or FreeBSD as a primary desktop OS since 1994. LaTeX works fine as a word processor if you know what you're doing.)

I also do consulting work for several smallish companies, and they all run Windows. It's really simple - if you need good 2D CAD software, you need Windows. If you need a modern multi-user accounting package that can do strange things like payroll and integrate with direct deposit, you need Windows. If you need a *good* spreadsheet (no, OOo calc doesn't count), you need Windows or OSX. If you want to run all of this on one desktop operating system, you need Windows. Crossover Office, WINE, VMWare, etc. aren't going to convert many small businesses; they want less complexity, not more. (some of these clients have Linux servers - network edge, multiprotocol file and print services, web apps, etc. - but they are close to 100% Windows on the desktop)

I think that you could convert a LOT of small businesses over if you could get a Peachtree or Quickbooks port for Linux. However, for small business, you don't stand a chance until you get *good* accounting software. OOo calc not sucking would really help too; lots of businesses make very heavy use of spreadsheets. (OOo Writer sucks, but so does Word. OOo Impress is adequate, as it's all pretty much PowerPointless anyway.)

If you're looking for long-term savings, I'd suggest considering Windows TS clients (use your old XP machines/licenses/etc), and a Windows 2k3 server terminal server. It won't be all that cheap to setup initially, but you will be able to significantly reduce your maintenance headaches.

Look at the business needs, and pick technologies that meet the business needs. Make technology work FOR your business; I've see what happens when you flip that around, and it isn't pretty.

Almost total Linux shop with 1000+ employees (2, Insightful)

SQLz (564901) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413478)

I actually don't work for the group in charge of maintaining the systems, but I know a few things about how they are maintained. Basically, all systems have the same exact same RH4 image and sync up against an internal yum repository for software updates. There is basically zero maintenance for each machine besides that. Users can't write to the hard drive, all data is stored on netapp filers. When you are hired, you get really basic classes on how to use KDE, the internal wiki, Open Office, get on mailing lists, etc. A caveman could pass these classes.

We have over 7000 linux machines and 4 people to maintain them, plus 1000+ technical and non technical employees. Using Linux saves us millions of dollars, which pays for a couple of those netapps. The thing is, Linux just works, not to mention the vast amount of free software that is available for it.

Truthfully, and its a sad truth for some people, anyone who says Linux isn't ready for the corporate world has no idea what they are talking about. Its been there for while.

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