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Proactive planning vital to Linux migration

Experts lay out eight steps to a successful Linux migration.

TORONTO -- Linux migration is about more than moving bits and bytes from one server or desktop platform to another. It's about getting buy-in from decision makers, placating users and doing your homework if you're an IT manager itching to wade into the open source waters.

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"There's plenty you have to ask first," said Matthew Rice, president of the Canadian Linux Users Exchange (CLUE) during last week's Real World Linux Conference and Expo. Namely, Rice said, an IT manager has to determine whether they're being choked by and locked in to a proprietary vendor, whether the costs associated with a migration are justified in the long run, whether there is sufficient vendor support and how much training IT staff must endure to support the new platform.

A successful Linux migration has its roots in proactive planning and pilot exercises, Rice said.

"Define a pilot group, like a bunch of whiners who complain about viruses, and get them to be your guinea pig," Rice said. "Define your application and hardware and software requirements. Do it ahead of time."

Rice, along with Glen McKnight, director of business development for the Linux Professional Institute, developed eight steps to a successful migration.

  1. Find a visionary. "You need a leader or you're not going to get anywhere," Rice said. "If the owners of the company or the decision makers think Microsoft is fine, you're not going anywhere with your migration plans."
  2. Research what others are doing. Rice pointed to numerous success stories, notably the city of Largo, Fla., which sliced its IT budget in half following a successful 900-seat move off Windows on the desktop to Linux. Best practices among those success stories can be applied in almost any situation, he said. He also advised maintaining thorough records of the costs associated with a migration like training, hardware and software.
  3. Prepare a questionnaire in advance. "Outline where you want to go," Rice said. Maintain a log of hardware choices, feedback on software features and GUI experiences and usability. McKnight suggested looking at some boilerplate questionnaires available at
  4. Set realistic targets. The pilot team must keep abreast of changes in the open source community, establish realistic timelines and even create incentives for employee buy-in. "Things change fast in the open source world," Rice said.
  5. Sponsorship. "Do you have the funds to make this happen?" Rice said. "Do you have the budget and expectations on how much it's going to cost?" he added. IT managers must create an adequate and realistic budget and support it with thorough planning, implementation and evaluations.
  6. Communication. The company's critical staff should be aware of the progress of a migration. "No one likes surprises," Rice cautioned. He suggested that outsourcing training to a service provider is an option here if warranted.
  7. Outsourcing. If sticking to a migration budget is a chore or a challenge, a service provider or consultant would be forced to stick to it contractually, Rice said. "Get bids and know the technology they're going to be using," Rice said. "Find out if they're going to use Zeus and you'd prefer Apache, or some strange programming language you've never heard of, for example."
  8. Evaluation. When the pilot is finished, have a complete analysis ready. "Know your mistakes and compare it to your expected budget," Rice said. "Decide if you want to continue."

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