Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Linux Authors: AppDynamics Blog, Roger Strukhoff, Carmen Gonzalez, Blue Box Blog, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Migrating the Desktop from NT to Linux

Commitment from your team is the key to success

At the end of 2004, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows NT. At that point, anyone using Windows NT will have several choices: follow Microsoft's upgrade path to Windows 2003, continue to use Windows NT without Microsoft support, or switch to Linux.

Switching to Linux is the cheapest, safest alternative, according to such companies as Tramp Trampolines and Polyscientific Enterprise Sdn. Bhd, a distributor of chemical and industrial products. Both of these companies made successful migrations from Windows NT to Linux and are happily using Linux as a desktop today, bringing them cost savings and greater stability.

This article examines the Windows-to-Linux path for organizations using Windows NT as a desktop. We'll look at the first step, taking stock of the current situation, and then look at the choices that have to be made based on that. Then we'll look at the migration process and examine some of the problems and successes organizations have faced in making migrations work. Also covered are some of the recent technologies such as Live CDs and WINE (www.winehq.org), Win4Lin (www.netraverse.com), as well as application equivalents and data conversion tools that make migration less painful, such as Rekall (www.totalrekall.co.uk).

Convincing the Business

The first step in any successful migration is to have a solid commitment from the decision makers. Every migration I have ever been involved in has strongly resembled an ungodly combination of a train wreck and a bar fight. It takes a clear plan (fail to plan, plan to fail) and a lot of willpower combined with flexibility to get through to the end while reducing to a minimum the amount of bloodshed along the way. Without real buy-in by the decision makers it's not just difficult, it's impossible.

It's crucial to understand as well that not all the decision makers are in the boardroom - it's best to have a core of active supporters as a core team and a majority who are at least passive supporters of the migration effort. A little education and communication up front will go a long way in reducing the costs of the project and ensuring the active, willing cooperation of your core team. This is the second step in a successful migration. When I say core team, I don't mean the experts that may be brought in to install and train users; I mean users who have bought into the new technologies and are willing to put out the extra effort needed to carry it through. You'll need them.

Identifying the Task at Hand

The third step in a successful migration is to take stock of the current state of the shop. You'll need to answer these questions:
  • What are our key applications?
  • What dependencies do they create?
  • Who are our key users?
  • How big is the job?
Many tools are available to do software inventory on the high end of things (see www.trackbird.com and www.expressmetrix.com/faq/software_inventory.asp). On the less-expensive end, Syslist (www.syslist.com) and AIDA32 (www.aida32.hu/aida-features.php?bit=32) are available.

Once you have the answers to these questions you'll be in a position to conduct a systems triage. In a systems triage you divide your key applications into those that can be replaced by functional equivalents, those that cannot be replaced, and those that must be converted in detail. An example of the first group might be a word-processing package - OpenOffice, for example, can replace Microsoft Word.

The second group comprises two categories: applications that are unacceptably expensive to replace because of reengineering or retraining costs, and applications that cannot be replaced because of external requirements. A company may find that the retraining costs for moving people from Adobe Photoshop to the GIMP are unacceptably high, for example. Or they may have a requirement to provide material in certain formats that they cannot modify, such as a supplier whose largest customer stipulates that certain information must be transferred using Access or Excel.

The last group encompasses the "homegrown" components of the desktop system, such as Word macros or Visual Basic utilities, which would need to be rewritten in a new package.

This last group is where most of the migration "gotchas" lurk, and early identification of them is critical. Although zealots on both sides will often try to show that the choice between Windows and Linux is all or nothing, this isn't true in most cases. There is a set of technologies that allow Windows applications to be run on Linux. There are a lot of options here, from WINE, CodeWeavers (www.codeweavers.com), and Win4Lin, which provide a basic environment for executing Windows applications directly within Linux, through to full operating system emulation environments such as VMWare (www.vmware.com).

These technologies are quite solid and when properly applied can give you the best of both worlds. Users use applications, and applications use operating systems, so a solution that gives the users applications that they can work with and the applications a stable, secure operating system may be the best solution - or at least one that gives you a little more breathing space.

Building the New Environment

Once the analysis is done, you'll be in a position to make evaluations that will lead to firm decisions about the specific technologies and packages you'll be using. This is an area where open source stops being an abstract and becomes a serious business advantage. You don't need to buy a pig in a poke - you can get several pigs and make them jump through hoops for a very low cost.

If you take advantage of Linux on bootable CD technologies such as KNOPPIX, you can reduce the cost of testing and evaluation significantly. For example, rather than setting up a test machine or network and moving over a typical set of material, you can simply boot your existing machines with KNOPPIX and try opening your existing Word documents with OpenOffice.

Your core users can try things like switching over to Linux and falling back to Windows when required. There are also a lot of resources for choosing Windows application equivalents on Linux and many articles describing Windows-to-Linux migration in general.

The best guide I've found is the Migration Guide put out by KBSt Publication Service, a 441-page PDF containing a thorough and well-written analysis sure to be useful to anyone looking at this.

The absence of license fees and ready availability of much of the software sharply reduces the cost of doing an incremental migration. The variety among Linux distributions is an advantage here, rather than a liability, because no matter what your existing hardware base is, you'll be able to find a distribution that will run on it. If the one you find can't do what you want, you'll be able to determine the needed upgrades much more exactly than by simply taking a minimum requirements list from a vendor's sales material. On the other hand, if you want to obtain professional services to assist your evaluation, companies such as IBM (www-1.ibm.com/linux) and Racemi (www.racemi.com) offer consulting services in this area.

I haven't found any products designed specifically for assisting desktop migrations; however, two tools I often recommend are OpenOffice and Rekall. OpenOffice's ability to read Word and Excel formats and write a variety of formats make it an ideal replacement for the Windows equivalents, while Rekall allows you to read an Access database via ODBC and write that data to PostgreSQL, MySQL, or a number of other databases. For the vast majority of desktop systems this will allow you to transfer the user data.

In situations where you cannot easily transfer data, you may have to change your approach to looking for an equivalent or compatible software package. For example, Polyscientific Enterprise had a problem with Lotus Smartsheet documents not being readable by OpenOffice, and reassessed their business problem to look for a solution within another package.

You can use one of the methods described previously to run a Windows application on Linux. In any event, when you have decided on the correct mix of application packages, make sure they can work together. Having your core team perform interoperability testing by actually moving real data around and verifying the results is the best way to discover problems. Once again, solutions such as Knoppix can be a real help at this point.

Realizing the Migration

So, after you've gotten a solid commitment, decided on your migration plan, assembled the core team, and assembled and tested your solution, you're faced with training and supporting your end users. Some suggestions to make this easier:
  • Try to do it a few users at a time, or one functional group at a time.
  • Evaluate the material available for free from places such as Openoffice.org, and make this material available through an internal Web application such as a forum or a Wiki.
  • Set up a Web-based training package such as Moodle (www.moodle.org).
  • If you can, make your core team available to help people out.
  • Test your chosen architecture and software suite and ensure that it fulfils your functional requirements.
  • Test the interoperability of your new solutions with your legacy systems and verify that they work in a production environment before you commit them organization-wide.
  • Test your training and documentation setup using typical users with no previous background. Remember that if people can't be brought up to speed on the new solutions in a cost-effective way, it won't work.
  • Expect problems. Testing will reduce, but not eliminate, them and you'll have to react quickly while under a great deal of stress

Summary

People and commitment are the key to a successful migration. If you have them you can succeed - and if you can take advantage of the open source edge, you can do it for a lot less. Migrations are always a high-stress activity and desktop migration is particularly so because it forces users to cope with more-visible changes than, for example, upgrading an e-mail server. Careful goal definition, planning, solution evaluation, and end-user training are all critical components, as is a dedicated core team and a step-by-step approach. The lower cost, greater interoperability, and greater flexibility of open source technologies, when used properly as part of well-thought-out and coordinated plan, will get you to the end of your migration path with a stable, secure, and lower-cost desktop.

References

  • "The Wrong Choice: After picking NT, Trampoline firm leaps to Linux": http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/ originalContent/0,289142,sid39_gci905078,00.html
  • "Open Source in SME Migration to Linux": http://opensource.mimos.my/fosscon2003cd/paper/slides/11_seah_hong_yee.pdf
  • Windows application equivalents on Linux: http://linuxshop.ru/linuxbegin/win-lin-soft-en/table.shtml
  • Switch to Linux: http://switch.demoni.ca
  • Linux for Microsoft Windows Users: http://mozillaquest.com/indexes/Linux4Windows_index.html
  • KBst Migration Guide: www.bmi.bund.de/downloadde/25072/Download_englisch.pdf
  • More Stories By Rob Sutherland

    Rob Sutherland is an independent consultant in Toronto, specializing in providing support, analysis, and implementation assistance to small and medium-size companies moving into open source. For the past 25 years he has worked as a programmer, systems analyst, and IT support person for clients ranging from startups to state and federal governments. You can find out more about Rob at www.cheapersafer.com.

    Comments (1) View Comments

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


    Most Recent Comments
    John Dean 08/24/04 03:42:32 AM EDT

    Hi
    I would like to add a little additional information which has not yet found its way into many of the recent article which include information of Rekall's feature list. There two new features which are presently being worked on. The first is "Rekall On The Web". The idea is the web enable Rekall Forms and Reports. This will allow users to produce either traditional desktop GUI database applications or to produce data driven web based applications. For more details on this particular feature please visit the Total Rekall web portal at http://www.totalrekall.co.uk. The second feature is the produce a MS Access to Rekall conversion utility. This feature will likely form the basis of a commercial Enterprise Edition. The idea is to scan an Access mdb file and exact data and meta data such that an Access application can be re-created in Rekall's native format. In order for us to produce these features quickly we will need sponsorship, so that we can devote 100% of our time to the project.

    @ThingsExpo Stories
    SYS-CON Events announced today that On the Avenue Marketing Group, a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. On the Avenue Marketing Group (OTA) is a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers. On behalf of our clients, we attend thousands of fairs, festivals, expos, concerts, conferences, and sporting events annually, helping them reach millions of individuals ...
    Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
    “In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    Health care systems across the globe are under enormous strain, as facilities reach capacity and costs continue to rise. M2M and the Internet of Things have the potential to transform the industry through connected health solutions that can make care more efficient while reducing costs. In fact, Vodafone's annual M2M Barometer Report forecasts M2M applications rising to 57 percent in health care and life sciences by 2016. Lively is one of Vodafone's health care partners, whose solutions enable older adults to live independent lives while staying connected to loved ones. M2M will continue to gr...
    SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Ciqada will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ciqada™ makes it easy to connect your products to the Internet. By integrating key components - hardware, servers, dashboards, and mobile apps - into an easy-to-use, configurable system, your products can quickly and securely join the internet of things. With remote monitoring, control, and alert messaging capability, you will meet your customers' needs of tomorrow - today! Ciqada. Let your products take flight. For more inform...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...
    Dave will share his insights on how Internet of Things for Enterprises are transforming and making more productive and efficient operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures in the cleantech industry and beyond. Speaker Bio: Dave Landa is chief operating officer of Cybozu Corp (kintone US). Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave has been on the forefront of the Cloud revolution driving strategic business development on the executive teams of multiple leading Software as a Services (SaaS) application providers dating back to 2004. Cybozu's kintone.com is a leading global BYOA (Build Your O...
    The best mobile applications are augmented by dedicated servers, the Internet and Cloud services. Mobile developers should focus on one thing: writing the next socially disruptive viral app. Thanks to the cloud, they can focus on the overall solution, not the underlying plumbing. From iOS to Android and Windows, developers can leverage cloud services to create a common cross-platform backend to persist user settings, app data, broadcast notifications, run jobs, etc. This session provides a high level technical overview of many cloud services available to mobile app developers, includi...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that BroadSoft, the leading global provider of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services to operators worldwide, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BroadSoft is the leading provider of software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer Unified Communications over their Internet Protocol networks. The Company’s core communications platform enables the delivery of a range of enterprise and consumer calling...
    While not quite mainstream yet, WebRTC is starting to gain ground with Carriers, Enterprises and Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) alike. WebRTC makes it easy for developers to add audio and video communications into their applications by using Web browsers as their platform. But like any market, every customer engagement has unique requirements, as well as constraints. And of course, one size does not fit all. In her session at WebRTC Summit, Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, Vice President, Head of Cloud and Mobile Strategy at GENBAND, will explore what is needed to take a real time communications ...
    What exactly is a cognitive application? In her session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ashley Hathaway, Product Manager at IBM Watson, will look at the services being offered by the IBM Watson Developer Cloud and what that means for developers and Big Data. She'll explore how IBM Watson and its partnerships will continue to grow and help define what it means to be a cognitive service, as well as take a look at the offerings on Bluemix. She will also check out how Watson and the Alchemy API team up to offer disruptive APIs to developers.
    The IoT Bootcamp is coming to Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo on June 9-10 at the Javits Center in New York. Instructor. Registration is now available at http://iotbootcamp.sys-con.com/ Instructor Janakiram MSV previously taught the famously successful Multi-Cloud Bootcamp at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in November in Santa Clara. Now he is expanding the focus to Janakiram is the founder and CTO of Get Cloud Ready Consulting, a niche Cloud Migration and Cloud Operations firm that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. He is a Microsoft Regional Director for Hyderabad, India, and one of the f...
    The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
    WebRTC is an up-and-coming standard that enables real-time voice and video to be directly embedded into browsers making the browser a primary user interface for communications and collaboration. WebRTC runs in a number of browsers today and is currently supported in over a billion installed browsers globally, across a range of platform OS and devices. Today, organizations that choose to deploy WebRTC applications and use a host machine that supports audio through USB or Bluetooth can use Plantronics products to connect and transit or receive the audio associated with the WebRTC session.
    As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that robomq.io will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. robomq.io is an interoperable and composable platform that connects any device to any application. It helps systems integrators and the solution providers build new and innovative products and service for industries requiring monitoring or intelligence from devices and sensors.
    Wearable technology was dominant at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) , and MWC was no exception to this trend. New versions of favorites, such as the Samsung Gear (three new products were released: the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo and the Gear Fit), shared the limelight with new wearables like Pebble Time Steel (the new premium version of the company’s previously released smartwatch) and the LG Watch Urbane. The most dramatic difference at MWC was an emphasis on presenting wearables as fashion accessories and moving away from the original clunky technology associated with t...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Litmus Automation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Litmus Automation’s vision is to provide a solution for companies that are in a rush to embrace the disruptive Internet of Things technology and leverage it for real business challenges. Litmus Automation simplifies the complexity of connected devices applications with Loop, a secure and scalable cloud platform.
    In 2015, 4.9 billion connected "things" will be in use. By 2020, Gartner forecasts this amount to be 25 billion, a 410 percent increase in just five years. How will businesses handle this rapid growth of data? Hadoop will continue to improve its technology to meet business demands, by enabling businesses to access/analyze data in real time, when and where they need it. Cloudera's Chief Technologist, Eli Collins, will discuss how Big Data is keeping up with today's data demands and how in the future, data and analytics will be pervasive, embedded into every workflow, application and infra...