July 28, 2004

Two Linux migration utilities promise savings in money and time

Author: Mary E. Tyler

After nine years in proprietary software migrating Windows
machines to other Windows machines as CTO for Miramar Systems, Mike Sheffey saw
the wave coming. The large corporations Miramar worked with were
increasingly asking asking for a new migratory path: Windows to
Linux. Instead of running in terror from the oncoming tsunami,
Sheffey dove into the wave and founded Versora last December.

"We've been building our product line, releasing products around
Windows edge servers: print servers, file servers, Web servers, and
email servers that sit on the edges of the network," says Sheffey.
"We replace servers so there is little or no impact to users." For
example, Versora replaced a Microsoft Exchange
with Novell'sSUSE LinuxOpenexchange
. "Users see their mail just the same," says Sheffey.
"Openexchange gave them more stability. They were crashing four times
a month causing incredible downtime for their sales people who need
to send their mail now, today."

Same old story

It's the same old song and dance: less spent on licensing, cheaper
hardware, no vendor lock in. Companies switching to Linux are all
chanting the same refrain. They want to save money -- who doesn't?

Versora is introducing a new product that
will bring a little harmony to the migration process. Progression
takes a Microsoft Internet Information Server Web server installation and migrates
it automatically to Apache on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X. Progression
Web looks at all Web pages and configuration settings and puts them
into a platform-neutral package which is then applied to
Apache. "The result is minimal downtime
for the Web site," says Sheffey.

According to Sheffey, the return on investment (ROI) is
significant, but mainly counted in terms of technician time. For a
"brochure" type static Web site, Versora estimates that a company can
save about 12 person-hours -- a day and a half. For a more
complex site with hooks into databases and some ASP code, the measure
is in person-weeks rather than hours. For the most complex sites,
"You're looking at weeks if not months of time saved," says Sheffey.

Progression Web uses an engine to migrate ASP code to PHP. "It's not
100% [automated]," Sheffey says. Some ASP code has to be migrated by hand.
"But 80 to 85% of companies want to get off ASP. Those that don't can
run ASP in Java."

Progression Web has a tiered pricing structure and is distributed
under an enterprise source
developed in cooperation with Gluecode
. "It's something in between GPL and proprietary,"
Sheffey explains. "When a company buys a software package, it never
quite works just the way they want it to. There has to be custom
shell for the processes the customer wants to do. Then the customer
pushes on us. [We thought] let's open our source to our customers.
Anyone who buys software receives the source code. There's no
[requirement on the customer to submit any modifications to Versora],
but it's encouraged."

But there is competition...

Das Technology Ltd. of Taiwan
has a competing product, LSP
, which offers both a GUI for administering Linux and the
ability to migrate file, mail, FTP, and print servers in addition to
various other settings to both Linux (SUSE, Mandrake,
Red Hat, and TurboLinux are supported) and Mac OS X (included on request). LSP Pro
does not port ASP code to PHP or SQL Server databases to open source
database systems. Das has a flat-rate pricing structure of $500 per
server, with volume discounts available. Unfortunately, the documentation
reads like it was written by a non-native English speaker. Currently, Das only offers a
proprietary license, though it is considering releasing under an
open source license as well. According to Das, LSP has been widely
used in Taiwan and the Pacific Rim, but is only beginning to extend
its reach globally.

With accelerating competition on the supply side, migrating to
Linux is about to get a lot faster and cheaper on the demand side.


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