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Experts offer Linux migration pointers

As enterprises mull moves from proprietary Unix and Windows systems to Linux, experts suggest that decision makers keep an eye on potential front-end migrations as well.

Experts are urging enterprise IT shops to develop strategies for moving back-end systems like databases to Linux while paying close attention to advances in Linux on the desktop.

If an enterprise's IT organization doesn't have migration, virtualization, security and networking on its Linux to-do list today, it will be eating a competitor's dust tomorrow, said experts polled by

Ken Milberg, a site expert, said companies should start focusing on migrating database servers from Unix or Windows to Linux, in addition to considering how they can use Linux on the desktop.

"It's just a matter of time before Linux makes real inroads on Microsoft turf. Red Hat is key here, as the long-awaited corporate desktop needs to be released," Milberg said.

"If nothing else, a Linux desktop pilot is a fantastic lever to use against Licensing 6.0," said Jeremy White, CEO and founder of CodeWeavers Inc., a St. Paul, Minn., vendor that offers tools that help enterprises migrate from Windows to Linux.

Matt Asay, chairman of Novell Inc.'s Linux business office, said that customers confronted with the challenge of learning a new operating environment should research vendors that can "ease the pain of migration to a new platform."

"IT customers need to start evaluating the various Linux providers, weighing the range of services offered, factoring in depth of experience and expertise," Asay said.

While most experts insist that IT shops should make Linux migration a top priority, some key players said that Linux is still something like a frontier town when it comes to using it in an enterprise environment.

"I could dive into a long list of really amazing features that Linux has to offer. For example, virtualization on an operating system level is going to change the face of IT as we know it today," said Juergen Geck, chief technology officer for Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE Linux AG. "It's going to take just a little bit longer to make it as stable as it should be to become part of an enterprise software platform."

Two key enterprise areas where Linux is a strong but oft-overlooked contender are networking and security, experts said.

"They should be looking to make more use of Linux as Internet gateways," said David Mandelstam, president of Sangoma Technologies Corp., a networking vendor. "Linux is a child of the Internet, and its networking capabilities have been developed from the original Unix base. It is a natural choice for all firewall and Internet security-related functions. It is also a world-beater as a router."

Sistina Software Inc. chief technology officer Matt O'Keefe, a site expert, said enterprises need to consider their storage infrastructures when planning migrations to Linux.

"Integrating their Linux deployments with their storage area networking (SAN) infrastructure can help prevent many integration problems in the future." O'Keefe said. "Make sure all your storage hardware and software vendors play well together, including the HBAs, switches and storage arrays, with the particular Linux kernel series you plan to run. Make sure your distribution vendor has the appropriate support you need for your corporate SAN infrastructure."

It goes without saying that in order to make any Linux implementation a success, IT shops must emphasize strong management and training. Asay stressed Linux training as the most important focus for IT pros: "To get maximum benefit from the open-source revolution, IT pros/shops need to be able to participate, or at least to customize what they're bringing in the door."


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