This is the last article in a four-part series on the Novell Open Workgroup Suite. The first article in the series talked about preparing for a migration to Linux by getting all systems under management, collecting a comprehensive hardware and software inventory and securing the desktop environment with system-wide patch management. The second article covered the migration of servers and workgroup services to Linux, based on the technology included in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite. The third article outlined the steps to begin the transition to open source applications on Windows, which are gathering application data, building your application transition map and developing your application rollout strategy.
In this final article of the series, we'll build on the transition of desktop applications to open source from the third article and finish the migration story by discussing the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and how to effectively make the final transition from Windows to Linux.
> One Small Step For IT–One Giant Benefit For Mankind!
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is the only enterprise-quality Linux desktop on the market, designed for general-purpose business. Developed by Novell, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop provides market-leading usability, seamless interoperability with existing enterprise computer systems, and dozens of essential office applications. Deployable as a general-purpose desktop platform or tailored for use in thin- and thick-client configurations with fixed-function uses such as kiosks, cash registers or for high-end engineering workstations, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop provides unparalleled levels of flexibility for desktop clients. With SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, businesses can dramatically reduce costs, improve end-user security and increase workforce productivity.
Novell Connection has published many great articles since SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 released earlier this year. If you're serious about migrating any computers to Linux, whether tens or thousands, reading these articles is a must. Nathan Conger's article in the Third Quarter 2006 issue (novell.com/connectionmagazine/2006/q3/tech_talk_1.html) gives a detailed view of what's in the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 release, and why it's a very compelling alternative to Windows Vista.
Other articles (among others) provide more of the technical information needed to roll out Linux on your desktop machines. For example, Chander Ganesan's excellent article in the March 2006 issue details how to automate your Linux installations using the AutoYaST installation tool (novell.com/connectionmagazine/2006/03/tech_talk_1.html).
The last is a nine-part series by Kendra Dalin entitled Back To Basics: Bridging Your NetWare Skills to Linux. Though not specific to the desktop, this series is helpful if you're looking for insight into Linux overall and how to make the transition to Linux based on your years of administrative experience with NetWare.
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is now included in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite and provides a great addition to round out the functionality found in the suite. Read these articles if you haven't already.
Continuing The Migration Story
In the third article of this series, I pointed out the important role applications play in your desktop-rollout plans and discussed items such as application dependencies, application transition maps and piloting open source applications in your environment. If you're working your way through the steps I provided, you should have a fairly complete application transition map, and potentially already deployed your targeted open source (Microsoft alternative) applications to your users. You'll need all of the information you gathered about your installed applications to make the final step towards a Linux desktop. Even though every company is different, you should be able to easily migrate the majority of your users' desktops to Linux utilizing standard desktop configurations.
In doing your application research, you might have found your company was using critical applications that currently don't have open source alternatives. As such, you might have thought you wouldn't be able to migrate them to Linux. Don't despair! Options exist for these applications you might not be aware of. To help with these applications, let's explore some alternatives you should consider. If you haven't already done your application research, review article three in this series (novell.com/connectionmagazine/2006/11/tech_talk_2.html) before proceeding.
Function: Who Should Be the First Target?
Founded in 2000, the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) is an organization dedicated to accelerating the growth and adoption of Linux-based operating systems in the enterprise. Under their Desktop Linux initiative (osdl.org/lab_activities/desktop_linux), OSDL defined Desktop Linux to be:
"...a version of Linux tailored for use as an interactive system for individual use. Usage ranges from a system dedicated to a single task, such as a point of sale terminal, to a general-purpose desktop system, such as is typically found on a home PC."
Out of the seven segments that OSDL identified for Desktop Linux use, five (Fixed Function, Technical Workstation, Transaction Workstation, Basic Office and Advanced Office) were consistent with business use. You should understand the different segments and how they might relate to your own environment. These five categories have been covered in other articles, including Conger's article I referenced previously. In general, the Fixed Function Desktop will be the easiest to migrate because you are usually only dealing with one primary application. Technical Workstations are also fairly easy to migrate because the user is usually a programmer, or someone technical who would take the move in stride. The last three options involve more applications and have a wide variety of potential users. Before migrating these systems, invest some time and effort in the human side of the equation. There are a few things that you can do to streamline your rollout and improve user acceptance of the change in desktops to Linux.
"Linux thin client deployments are a perfect solution for Hines' manufacturing plants, allowing the IT staff to provide employees with applications, such as the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, through a central server. The thin client approach is more reliable in industrial environments, where damage to a PC hard drive is a real risk, and has also helped Hines dramatically reduce its software licensing costs."
Improving User Acceptance
In the third article, I discussed change as it related to users who were targeted for deployment of open source applications on their Windows desktops. I outlined some of the pros and cons involved in letting users run both the proprietary application and the replacement open source application simultaneously on their systems. One of the benefits of being able to run both applications was the user could ease into the new application at their own pace while still having access to the application they were comfortable with; however, when moving a user to a Linux desktop, some of the options are not as cut and dried.
Of course, having already piloted the open source applications on a Windows desktop will go a long way toward minimizing the change that might be felt when a user is dropped into a new desktop environment. In addition, the data you gathered during your open source application pilots and rollouts was valuable for understanding how people in your organization accept change. You should now have an idea of who are candidates for your initial Linux desktop pilots, and who might require more hand holding.
Armed with this data, you can do a few things to prepare your end users for a successful migration. The first is to socialize Linux to your user base prior to any pilot or rollout. The second is to provide as much information and training as possible before, during and after the pilot and rollout. And the third is to gather, review and utilize your application data and requirements to successfully plan for the different types of deployment scenarios (and special cases) that might be needed.
Linux Socialization And Training
To help prepare your users for their new environment, you might look at establishing your own Linux Desktop Lab(s). Use the lab to invite various users or teams (either ad hoc or structured) to come and get hands-on experience with Linux; allow them to ask questions or voice concerns; provide a place to instill in them the top-down strategy and rationale for Linux to begin with, such as tighter security, lower cost, better ROI and avoiding proprietary lock-in. As stated in the previous article, you might want to start with executives and department heads. They will be key influencers and important role models during the Linux rollout.
In conjunction with your Linux Desktop Lab, plan to invest the appropriate amount of time and resources in training and information sharing. One of the reasons you are moving to Linux on the desktop is probably to reduce costs while maintaining end user and/or IT staff productivity. If you don't provide adequate training and communication to your users, you might experience results that are opposite to the ones you were targeting.
Implementing the suite will save you money in licensing fees, give you peace of mind knowing that your workgroup services are running on a platform that is more open and cost effective than what proprietary solutions offer. Best of all, you can easily implement the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 on the desktop, over time as it makes sense in your environment.
> Deployment Scenarios
Using your detailed Application Transition Map and knowing the deployment categories that make the most sense for your organization, such as department, function or location, determine if you need to make any special adjustments to your SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 deployments to accommodate applications that require Windows in some way.
Deployments that don't require any special adjustments are ones that all of the critical applications that were used on the user's Windows desktop 1) have a Linux version available, 2) have an open source equivalent, or 3) have an alternate interface, such as a Web browser, that provides acceptable functionality on Linux. A recent Linux migration success stories for Novell features Hines Corporation. They realized some tremendous cost savings by rolling out Linux on their servers and desktops and taking advantage of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite.
Some applications, for various reasons, might require special adjustments to work in the world of Linux. Some Windows apps might not have a Linux version or alternate Web client. Whatever the reason, if your applications require some form of Windows to be in place, use the following four options for bridging applications between the Windows and Linux worlds.
Case 1: Windows Applications From Linux
The first case is for users to be able to run their Windows applications from Linux. In order to access and run Windows applications from Linux, you would need to investigate whether the specific application can run under a remote application portal like Windows Terminal Server or Citrix Metaframe. (See Figure 1.) This means that one server will serve up the application for all users who need to run it. This still requires the same number of user licenses for the application and also requires that the application be able to run in a multiuser mode so each user who connects to the application can save their own settings and files as if they were running it on their own Windows desktop. This requires an increase in infrastructure (Citrix or Terminal Services Servers) to handle all of the users who require access to the application. But the impact on the Linux side is minimal because the rdesktop application, which is used with Terminal Server, or the Citrix Metaframe client usually has a much smaller footprint than the original application itself.
Another option to run Windows applications from Linux is to use Win4Lin Virtual Desktop Server (VDS). VDS is the Linux Alternative to Citrix. It provides all of the advantages of server-based Windows desktop sessions, but from a Linux server. For some, this is the best way to deploy an end-to-end Linux footprint in which Windows becomes a guest, not a control point. For others, VDS is the perfect solution to provide users access to those last few legacy Windows apps that have kept your organization from making a smooth and complete transition to a Linux infrastructure.
Case 2: Windows Applications On Linux
The second case is for users to be able to run their Windows applications on Linux. You need special software to access and run a Windows application on Linux. The software must be able to correctly translate the Windows Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from the desired Windows application so it runs as designed, but on Linux rather than Windows. Two examples of special software that provide this functionality are Wine and CrossOver Linux.
According to winehq.com, "Wine is an open source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. Think of Wine as a compatibility layer for running Windows programs. Wine does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely free alternative implementation of the Windows API consisting of 100 percent non- Microsoft code; however, Wine can optionally use native Windows DLLs if they are available." You can run many Windows apps, such as Adobe Photoshop, on Linux using Wine. (See Figure 2.)
One of the biggest benefits of running Wine over a Case 1, terminal-based solution is that the software license for Wine is free. In addition, the overhead on the computer is minimal when compared to solutions in Cases 3 and 4 because you don't need a license for Windows. Wine might require more setup and testing to ensure the application runs as desired on SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10; but remember, only implement Wine for the applications that require Windows interoperability. As an added bonus, Wine provides compatibility with more than 3,000 applications. (See appdb.winehq.org/appbrowse.php).
CrossOver Linux is from Codeweavers (codeweavers.com) and is very similar in function to Wine; however, CrossOver Linux is a commercial application and has some distinct differences, including running Windows Web browser plugins, such as QuickTime and Shockwave, from your Linux browser. Whether you use Wine or CrossOver Linux will depend on your needs. Codeweavers provides a trial copy of their standard edition, and Wine is free. If you like the options from this case, evaluate both products to determine which one will work best for you.
Case 3: Windows Applications In Linux
The third case provides an option for users who require a working copy of Windows and for whom access to the desired application is frequent. For this case, the option is to embed a fully functional copy of Windows running inside of a virtual machine on top of Linux. The virtual machine that is run on Linux will be launched when the particular application is needed. VMware now has a free VMware Player (see vmware.com/products/player/), making this alternative much more attractive, as long as the machine has enough computing power to handle both SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and the Virtual Windows instance. In this case, the end user experience for the desired application is exactly the same as it was when the user ran the application from their Windows desktop. This is also the downside to this option. The Windows license is still required, and special networking configuration and additional steps to maintain the image are also required to hook the Windows desktop into the network and keep it up to date.
In addition, the end user may be tempted to stay in the virtual Windows world and avoid the Linux desktop you rolled out. Finally, Microsoft modified their End User License Agreements for Vista and some versions won't be allowed to run in virtual machines, while others have restrictions on them.
Case 4: Windows Applications Or Linux
The fourth case is very similar to option 3, with the difference being that the application is rarely needed, or the computer might not have the computing power to handle the virtual machine being loaded. The option for this case is to set up the machine in a dual-boot configuration so it can run either Windows or Linux, but not both simultaneously. Configuring the machine to dual boot requires enough free disk space to accommodate both operating systems and disk space for any user files. AutoYaST can easily convert an existing Windows machine into a dual-boot machine when you install SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 on it. This configuration allows a user to use SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop as the primary desktop and reboot the machine into Windows only when the user needs to access a specific application. When considering this option, it is important to note that Windows cannot see or write to a Linux partition, and Linux can read but not write to an NTFS file system. If you want to be able to see and share files between both partitions, have AutoYaST create a third partition and set it to be FAT32. Both Windows and Linux can read and write to FAT32 file system partitions. The disadvantages of Case 4 are the same as Case 3: requiring a Windows license, more disk space and the temptation for the user to run Windows instead of Linux.
In this four-article series, I have provided details and options for helping you know what to do and where to start to implement the Novell Open Workgroup Suite. I have covered how to secure your current investment, how to transform your back-end servers and services, how to migrate to open source application alternatives and finally how to move your desktops to Linux. The Novell Open Workgroup Suite gives IT administrators a viable and, practical alternative to being locked in to proprietary software. Implementing the suite will save you money in licensing fees, give you peace of mind knowing that your workgroup services are running on a platform that is more open and cost-effective than what proprietary solutions offer. Best of all, you can easily implement the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 on the desktop, over time as it makes sense in your environment. This series provides a wealth of information to help you on your way. So what are you waiting for? Bringing the benefits of Linux to the workgroup is easier than you think!