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Versora CEO seeks Windows-to-Linux converts

Versora CEO Mike Sheffey is on a mission to convert the Windows masses to Linux. His company and newcomer Win4Lin have joined forces in an effort to tackle users' apprehension over migration.

On the heels of a Versora survey conducted earlier this month about Window-to-Linux migrations, Versora and partner Win4Lin have struck while the migration is hot with new products and services aimed at wresting away customers from the folks in Redmond.

In an interview with, Versora CEO Mike Sheffey discussed the key sticking points for customers still on the fence when it came time for their IT department to consider the big switch from Windows to Linux. He also talked about how the partnership with Win4Lin was aimed at getting them on the side of open source.

You recently conducted an SMB survey with businesses considering a Windows-to-Linux migration. Could you give a little background on the survey and describe what you found?

Mike Sheffey: We surveyed 140 small to medium businesses (SMBs) that have been considering migrating from Windows to Linux. These companies represented various industries using primarily Microsoft technologies. The topics that we covered were related to the adoption of Linux within their organization and the barriers to adoption. The general feedback was that the most challenging issue of migrating to Linux was the impact on the user (loss of productivity) and the fact that core business applications don't run on Linux.

You mentioned challenges/resistance in Windows-to-Linux migrations; what is the No.1 reason IT professionals considering such a move are still apprehensive?

Sheffey: The primary reason that companies have resistance to Windows to Linux migrations is because of the unknown impact of a migration on said companies business processes. As more and more companies migrate, this factor of the unknown decreases rapidly. Microsoft will face the same challenge when they release their new operating system Vista (previously Longhorn). Most companies will be reluctant to migrate to Vista until others have successfully done so. The more public statements related to migration be it to Linux or Vista the more likely other companies are willing to migrate.

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In relation to the previous question, is there a difference between what SMBs and enterprise-level companies are telling you in regards to resistance?

Sheffey: SMBs have less resistance migrating to Linux than do enterprises. The scale of complexity for an SMB compared to that of an enterprise is much less. Enterprises tend to be quite conservative in the way that they approach adopting new technology. The cost savings equation is certainly a huge motivating factor that makes enterprises look at the migration to Linux. Once a few house-hold names complete their Windows to Linux desktop migrations, other corporations will start looking much closer at making similar moves to Linux.

Why do you think the Versora and Win4Lin partnership will begin to quell doubters or tentative adopters?

Sheffey: The Versora/Win4Lin partnership addresses two of the biggest inhibitions in migrating from Windows to Linux. No other company in the world provides a solution that allows you to move your users email, calendar, address book from Outlook to Evolution/KMail/Mozilla Mail while allowing you to run any Windows application you wish on your the Linux machine.

Additionally, being able to purchase Versora and Win4Lin's product from one vendor eases the impact on the company adopting our combined solution. We do have some very compelling partnerships that we will be able to share with you shortly.

Your company says that one of the most important survey results was that "a seamless transition included the ability to run Windows applications on Linux and the need to automate the migration from the original Windows machine." Do you believe that this side by side approach with Linux and Windows is the way of the future?

Sheffey: We believe that there will be two different approaches that companies take when considering migrating to Linux. The first approach is to migrate daily functions such as email, web browsing and word processing from Windows to Linux using products like Progression Desktop. In this first approach there will remain some Windows applications that are critical to the business that do not have Linux equivalents. The company will continue to run these Windows applications using product like Win4Lin.

The second approach, a complete migration from Windows to Linux, is accomplished using products like Progression Desktop migrating users settings and data to Linux machines running Linux applications for their vast majority of their work. This approach does not run Windows applications on the Linux client rather (if still needed) are run from a thin client session using products like Win4Lin Terminal Server.

Revisiting the resistance question, how would the IT landscape change if the knowledge that moving to Linux from Windows was indeed "seamless" was widespread? Do you believe 'hardened' Windows shops would begin to at least consider a migration or is there more to it that just creating a less expensive, seamless way to switch?

Sheffey: Even while our partnership does provide a seamless transition from Windows to Linux, there certainly are more factors to consider when looking at the IT landscape. Most business focus on using the tools they need to run a profitable organization. Companies don't switch from one platform to another just because there are cost effective methods for doing so, rather they switch to improve the efficiency of their business.

When organizations are looking to increase productivity and decrease software acquisition costs (in order to improve the bottom line) they may look at Linux as a way to achieve this. If tools exist to make the switch from Windows to Linux more seamless than not, they may determine to realize this transition. Without these migration tools, a switch to Linux may be less likely.

How large a role will/does automation play in the migration process, and could you elaborate on earlier statements that "the bundled software package automates the migration of data, application and system settings from Windows desktops to Linux and runs Windows 2000/XP applications and OS on Linux?"

Sheffey: Automation plays a significant role in the migration process and grows exponentially as the number of systems grows. The migration of Windows to Linux desktops for five machines will not require automation; however five hundred machines will see great efficiencies and cost savings through using automation.

Most organizations have a core set of applications that are used and corporate policies that they follow. In order to achieve efficiencies, products like Progression Desktop can be used to deploy the migration of data, application settings and user profile information from Windows to Linux in a completely automated fashion. As mentioned before, Windows applications that are necessary (and proprietary without an adequate Linux equivalent) can still be run on the new Linux platform with Win4Lin.

Customer migrations and testing have indicated an IT staff can migrate 20 to 25 machines --including testing -- in eight hours if running our product on each machine. In conjunction with a systems management suite such as ZENworks, reports indicate that up to 100 machines can be migrated by one technician over the same eight hour period.

Compared to a manual migration which takes one technician eight hours to migrate and test one to three machines, an automated migration is a very attractive solution. The cost and productivity gains are significant.

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