My Experience and Strategy to Migrate MS Windows to Linux

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This article is made with a purpose of giving a hint on strategy for migrating MS Windows to Linux, specifically using OpenOffice, Samba file server, and dosemu (DOS emulator).

Background: Why spending hundred millions of rupiahs (tens of thousand dollars) when there's another solution in which much more economical?

It is high time for management to realize that in the more and more hard business competition era, all form of efficency must be done. And as we know, in the last couple of months, Microsoft Indonesia and BSA is getting more active in pursuing those companies that use their software without proper license.

Well, it is understandable and we cannot blame them for being such predator, because they are the owner of the copyright. However, as we know, the licensing cost of MS Office basic (only covers Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) is about $150. So, for a company that owns about 100 PC, it must pay $1,500. With additional $140 for the Operating System (WinXP). The total cost therefore is about $300 per PC. Multiply this by 100 PC means around $30,000. For companies that own around 100-300 PC the total cost for licensing could be hundreds of thousand dollars! (Billions of rupiahs).

As much as we want to migrate, it is not an easy task to do. Company still should consider the cost and benefit of migration plan. Therefore, the strategy in general should cover these:

  1. Do an analysis of PC usage. We must inventory what programs are used, which PC is used for administratif task only, such as word processor, spreadsheet, etc. Which PC is used for certain program, and on which platform and programming language it is made, etc.

  1. Based on the data we gather, we then analize deployment coverage. In this analysis, we research on possibility of all migration track:

- Which PC that can be 100% migrated, including the OS and the office application.

- Which PC that can only be 50% migrated, is it only the office application?

- Which PC that cannot be migrated at all, in other words 0% migratable.

  1. Based on the above mentioned scenario, we then also analize the cost needed to be presented to the management. Of course the ideal plan is to migrate all the PC and applications, but, from my experience this is usually not possible yet. Because usually some of the function of the company has already been bound by Microsoft/other propietary products. It is a sad fact indeed.

Case study:

To give a clearer picture, let's discuss the following case.

A mid-size ad agency has about 300 PC that is located in several branches, in and out of town.

Lately, the management is worried because it has received a letter from Microsoft Indonesia, urging them to do software audit and the status of the license on the PC. After looking from the industry, it is known that the license cost for WinXP is around $140 per PC, and for MS Office basic is around $150 per PC. So the total cost for licensing all those 300 PC will be around $90,000 plus another thousand of dollars for servers and its CALs.

Now, with the above mentioned analysis steps, the management gets the following data:

  1. Around 30% of the PC only run office application, that is word processor and spreadsheet.

  2. Around 50% of the PC run an accounting and sales program that is written in Visual Basic and shared in a MS Windows server.

  3. Around 20% of the PC run a finance program that is written in Clipper and shared on a Novell server.

  4. The specification of the PC is varied, from Pentium classic (mostly for clipper application), Pentium 2, 3, and 4.

Ok, now we can start focussing on what we can migrate. Because of the limited time, then we must concentrate on PC that can truely migrated without many obvious problem.

Let's left behind those PC that run VB application for the time being.

For PC that only run office application, we can migrate them right away, but because of the varied hardware specification, we must make a detail plan as follows:

1. For Pentium Classic, we use Mandrake 9.0 or RH 8.

2. For Pentium 2 and 3, we use Mandrake 9.2, 10.0 or RH 9.

3. For Pentium 4, we can use the latest distro such as FC4 or Mandriva 10.2.

For PC that run clipper application, we can simulate it using Samba file server and dosemu.

This is the trick:

  1. We copy the application into a Samba server share.

  2. Make the usual share configuration with added configuration:

- Create the same user in the server and in the workstation.

- chmod 777 the share directory.

- add these lines into smb.conf:

create mask = 777

default case = upper

preserve case = no

  1. chmod 4555 /usr/sbin/smbmnt in the workstation. This will assure that common user can mount the share.

  2. Add this line into /etc/fstab on each workstation:

//ipofserver/sharename /home/user/mountpoint smbfs rw,user,noauto

  1. Install dosemu on each workstation.

Then we can connect to the Samba server, and run the clipper application this way:

  1. Open a console in the workstation.

  2. Connect to the samba share and at the same time mount the mount point:

- mount /home/user/mountpoint

- enter the password when asked.

  1. Run dosemu in that console.

  2. Enter to the mount point (default on drive D), and run the clipper program as usual. Done! :)

From the above explanation there is hope that we can make a substantial efficiency on licensing cost. But, from my experience, there are still more analysis to be done to make sure the success of the migration plan, that is:

  1. More comprehensive test must be done on the compability of the dosemu environment, samba, and those clipper programs. Because as good as dosemu can imitate DOS environment, it is still not a native DOS, and I cannot guarantee that is it 100% compatible with various clipper programs.

  1. We must also research and test more on the office application used by the users. Whether there are features that are really MS Office specific, that cannot be imported into OpenOffice in good shape. The latest OpenOffice 2 beta 1 is really-really good in compability with MS Office, but still it is not 100% compatible. If we encounter this incompatibility, we must then decide whether it can be overcome if we remake the file natively in OpenOffice, or cannot be done entirely.

  1. And another important task is to backup all the files that will be migrated. So if there is a problem, user still has the original files. I have encounter a situation when a user can import an excel file just fine into OOcalc, but then after several open and save operation, OOcalc failed to open the file.

  1. The last thing to consider to be done, and maybe the most important success key, is to give understanding to users why we migrate. Give an explanation that is acceptable, so that we will have user support on the migration. Be there when users need help on using the new program and environment. Give an easy comparison on the menus, such as in MS Excel we open this menu and this menu to print, and in OOcalc, we open this menu and this menu. So that the users can see the similarity or the difference clearly.

Well, that is the strategy I can share or to be more exact is my experience in migrating MS Windows environment to OpenSource solution specifically GNU/Linux.

Is short:

Why spending hundreds/billions of rupiahs if there is a much more logic solution?

Additional info:

Although done in low profile and not known by the general public, some big companies in Indonesia are migrationg their PC into Linux. So, silently, OpenSource movement is being adopted and growing in Indonesia.

I hope this writing can give an inspiration or a general picture for us who wants to grab a logical solution on licensing cost. It is indeed a high time for management to migrate to Linux, as it is a logic, feasible, and proper thing to do for any management that cares on the business.

v.1.0 by ari_stress a.k.a tiger74 a.k.a Fajar Priyanto
Jakarta, 17 September 2005. fajarpri at arinet dot org
He is a Microsoft Certified Professional who falls in love with Linux. Works for an automotive group in Jakarta.

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