Migrating from Microsoft Office to an open source office productivity suite isn't too difficult, although some believe there is more work to do. In general, suites such as OpenOffice.org or Sun's StarOffice work fairly well.
There are still some compatibility issues, however. "Let's say you've got a graphic in a Microsoft Word document. If you open it in OpenOffice.org, there is a pretty good chance that you won't be able to view that chart or graph," Sheffey explains. He also sees some compatibility issues with presentation software within the suite, but says spreadsheet functionality works well. Note that Office macros won't work in OpenOffice or StarOffice.
One option for migrating applications is Evermore Integrated Office (EIOffice) from Evermore Software LLC of Monterey Park, Calif. Written in Java and running on Windows, Linux, and other operating systems, this software functions as a single integrated office environment instead of a suite. Petreley says that EIOffice links data better than any other office suite he's ever experienced.
Another option is CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office, a Linux desktop productivity tool that allows users to run many office applications, such as Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, and Adobe Photoshop. A more comprehensive solution is Win4Lin from NeTraverse Inc. of Austin, Texas, which allows users to run Windows 98 on top of Linux such that the application comes up on Linux. By installing Microsoft Office on top of this, you can actually run Microsoft Office on Windows or Linux.
Migrating proprietary and homegrown applications to Linux opens another can of worms. If a company is truly dependent on many of these applications, the migration process probably will be more difficult and lengthy. One solution is to use a remote desktop to allow employees to view those applications running on a Windows host while the clients run a Linux-based desktop. Another option is to use a product like Secure Global Desktop from Tarantella Inc. of Santa Cruz, Calif. or Citrix MetaFrame Access Suite from Citrix Systems Inc. of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. to run Windows remotely. Yet another option is to rewrite those applications in Java or something equally operating system-agnostic.
Yet another option is to use VMware and run a full-blown client on top of Linux. "At first glance this doesn't make sense, but once you get into a customer's environment and see the need for them to unify their desktop environment to a common standard, it starts to make more sense," Werden says.
Migrating Mail, Calendar, and Personal Information Manager
The de facto standard for moving email, calendar, and PIM information from Microsoft Outlook to a Linux environment is Novell's Evolution, included with most Linux distributions. For all intents and purposes, it's a faithful clone of the Outlook interface, ensuring that anybody who uses Outlook will feel immediately comfortable with Evolution. Evolution provides everything Outlook provides -- email, calendaring, meeting scheduling, contact management, and task lists. Evolution also can work well with existing Microsoft Exchange services using POP3 and IMAP4.
Another alternative is Kmail. With the KDE windowing environment, migration of settings and data between popular Windows clients and the Kmail or Mozilla Thunderbird mail clients will be important to anyone who plans to support one of them as the corporate standard for email. Currently, these tools are not as widely used as other mail clients like Novell (formerly Ximian) Evolution and as such, have fewer import features. They also lack other interconnect features such as the Evolution connector for Exchange, Sheffey notes.
Internet browsing/Web services
While Windows provides two common browser options -- Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator -- Linux users have more choices. Those choices include Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Konqueror. None of these browsers have major compatibility issues.
HTML editing also can pose some challenges. As tools like Quanta, Bluefish, Eclipse and others continue to grow and mature, the functionality will quickly reach a point comparable to what can be found today on Windows. "We don't see this as being a big deal because when a company decides to move from Windows to Linux, the Web developers are happy that they get to learn some new languages," Sheffey says. "Those who have been developing under Microsoft ASP are happy to take some time to learn the power and ease of PHP."
No major problems should arise with instant messaging as it works today, since both Pidgin and Kopete are full-featured, fully compatible instant messaging clients. The instant messaging field on all platforms face the same challenges -- how to enable clients on different proprietary networks to connect and share with each other.
It's worth noting that AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft all hold control of their instant messaging protocols. While the open source clients have figured out how to use these protocols, they could be changed by the protocol owners. If, for example, AOL decides it needs to receive more revenue from ads via AIM, they could be locked out since open source clients don't show ads. To circumvent this issue, Sheffey recommends an open source instant messaging protocol called Jabber, which suits all of the same needs as the proprietary protocols. Groupwise for Linux by Novell is another solution. This critical business productivity tool now includes an instant messaging client that addresses many of the security and audit concerns of instant messaging.
Carefully examine the database and the data. Determine what you are trying to accomplish with the database. Only then can you plan what the new database environment should look like. Microsoft Access databases can be ported fairly easily to MySQL Database Server and PostgreSQL. In situations where migration problems occur, some enterprising vendors are creating solutions, such as Versora's ProgressionDB, which deals with some of the most common conversion issues. Another option is SharePlex from Quest Software Inc. of Irvine, Calif. This data replication software, mostly used to migrate Oracle to Linux, provides support for thousands of rows per second for load distribution, disaster recovery, and migrations.
Linux desktops should deploy Samba, an open source implementation of the SMB (Server Message Block) file sharing protocol. Samba can be installed on any Linux distribution and can replace, for example, a Windows NT domain controller -- at no cost. Yet another option is WebDAV (World Wide Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning), a set of extensions to HTTP that facilitates collaborative editing and file management between remote users.
A challenge for mixed Windows/Linux environments, Rosen notes, is permissions. "Unix-style permissions are not user-friendly," he says. To combat this issue, Rosen recommends options such as OpenAFS (an open source implementation of a file system first developed at Carnegie Mellon University that provides a client-server architecture for file sharing) and Netware NSS (Novell Storage Services), which soon will run native to Linux.
When it comes to video codecs, Linux is the place to be. There are several multimedia applications available to replace Windows Media Player, such as Xine and mplayer. A video that would take all of the computing power of a P4 2.0 Ghz under Windows Media Player would barely touch the resources of a P3 500 Mhz running mplayer, Sheffey notes.
However, Linux does lack one major feature -- digital rights management (DRM). Under a closed-source system, copy protection is far easier, as the communication channels from the protected media playing application to the operating system aren't as well-known. But because Linux is far more flexible, redirecting the speakers to record a DRM'd MP3 or redirecting the video to record a DRM's movie is much easier. But because the DRM companies don't see Linux as a viable market and because DRM is much harder to truly lock down in Linux, Linux may be lagging in digitally distributed forms of media, Sheffey says.
Major vendors, including Computer Associates and Veritas Software, offer client/server backup for Linux. Other backup solutions include Arkeia products from Arkeia Solutions, Backup Edge from Microlite Corp., and System Backup Administrator from Storix Inc. among others.
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