February 1, 2005

Review: Linux Client Migration Cookbook

Author: Ryan Paul

Even the most hapless management automatons are aware of the licensing and maintenance costs associated with perpetuating a Windows workplace. As security concerns escalate and the reliability of Windows diminishes, the appeal of desktop Linux intensifies. Ready or not, businesses must heed the migratory instinct, or risk getting left behind. The Linux Client Migration Cookbook, an IBM Redbook written by a group of seasoned IT specialists and freely downloadable from IBM's Web site, is a balanced and informative guide to practical migration.

The most valuable parts of the Cookbook are the ones that show administrators how to collect and interpret information that will help them to adapt the rest of the book's techniques to meet the unique and needs of their company.

The Cookbook shows how to evaluate employee usage patterns. Categorizing applications by role and function allows administrators to gauge software needs and find functionally equivalent applications. Employee questionnaires help administrators determine what features of common Windows applications employees really use.

The Cookbook covers a lot of ground, and provides an extensive list of open source alternatives for a wide variety of common Windows applications. The Cookbook also deals with infrastructure considerations, particularly in situations where Windows and Linux clients need to be able to utilize the same network services. The Cookbook explores technologies that simplify cross-platform domain authentication, file sharing, and network printer access.

When starting a migration, you must consider long-term maintenance issues before making any decisions. The Cookbook discusses various remote management and administration tools, update automation systems, and client backup solutions. The Cookbook includes extensive information about administration services provided with Red Hat and Novell distributions via Red Hat Network tools and Novell ZENworks (formerly Red Carpet). The Cookbook also briefly discusses concerns related to replacing existing systems, and rolling out additional Linux clients. Unfortunately, the Cookbook doesn't cover imaging techniques, and it does not discuss or compare image deployment tools.

The Cookbook doesn't cover just technical issues. An effective migration must also address human issues. The Cookbook explores ways to minimize the necessity for retraining. Introducing employees to cross-platform open source applications before starting the migration can allow them to become competent users of the new applications before they are plunged into a totally new environment. The Cookbook also recommends using LiveCD distributions like Knoppix to provide employees with the opportunity to experience the new environment before the change is made permanent.

The Cookbook is by no means comprehensive. While it articulates the issues and adeptly conveys a multitude of possible solutions, you'll need to put in additional research and discussion in order to make the techniques in this book work. Linux client migration is definitely not a "one size fits all" process -- many companies will have to change the way they think about technology in order to make Linux work for them.

A well-planned migration will enable a company to make a complete transition with minimal interruption to business as usual. The Linux Client Migration Cookbook covers a broad assortment of issues and scenarios, and provides the intrepid IT explorer with the knowledge and understanding required to establish an effective migration pilot program.


  • Migration
Click Here!