2012 Logo   Website for Beginning Linux Users

  Main Menu
Linux Help
Favorite Links
Our Community

  Site Search

Full text search of all of our exclusive web site articles.

Enter your search words:

  Linux Tips

  • Installation Help & Tips
  • Server Configuration Guide
  • For Guru Wanna-bees
  • Commands for Server Use

  •   And many more tips Here.      

    Opportune Time to Switch to Linux

    by Mark Rais, author of the new beginner Linux book, Linux for the Rest of Us

    W ith Microsoft pushing for Windows NT retirement and Linux applications maturing rapidly this is a unique moment.  There has never been a more opportune time to switch operating systems.
    This brief article provides a glimpse at the significant number of applications available to those seeking a switch from Microsoft NT to Linux.

    In a strange and perhaps macabre irony, close to the horrible September 11th tragedy of 2001, Microsoft first officially announced their decision to retire Windows NT.  By July 1st of this year, the standard edition will not be available through the system builder channel, and support will run out by July (Microsoft FAQ).

    Halfway through this substantive retirement, which is impacting large and small corporations world wide, another phenomenon is happening related to Linux.  Just as Microsoft is pressing for further acceptance and migration towards its newer Windows server product line, a wave of significant application successes are impacting the Linux world.

    Substantive strides have been made in the performance and security of recent Linux server flavors based on the stable Linux 3.10.x kernel.  Many of these flavors have also been thoroughly tweaked to the point in which I have personally seen a Linux server outperform far more expensive or numerically more servers running other OS's.

    However, although the OS itself has gained great strides, applications and their availability has been a reason for hesitation among some corporations.  They have tended to delay migration from Microsoft to Linux, holding out to avoid affecting business critical applications and to better evaluate ROI.

    Now, however, the time has come to seriously consider switching, as many of the key applications for Linux have matured significantly.  Core applications are far beyond simple compatibility and are making substantive impact in the business mainstream.

    I provide only a minor sampling of this below:

    Office Email Serving
    In an excellent Newsforge article Robin "roblimo" Miller notes the benefits of replacing Exchange Server with Communigate Pro.  Calling it a corporate email/groupware alternative to Microsoft's Exchange Server is both reasonable and accurate, although it is not Opensource.  Similarly there is also the server from Bynari called InsightServer.  At the same time, SuSe has been promoting its release of OpenExchange Server, which is also less expensive and believed more manageable than MS Exchange Server.  A brief summary and links for OpenExchange Server are located here.

    Considering where Microsoft Exchange servers and their market share were just a year or two ago, these three alternatives are profoundly impacting corporate perspectives.  And for those well versed with Linux, I should not miss the fact that the sendmail utility continues to do its job across many corporate servers.

    Office Proxy and Firewalls
    By now these two aspects of Linux have been well proven.  Firewall setup and configuration as well as getting an office web proxy established are renowned attributes of Linux servers, with most versions offering not only tools like squid (see also this helpful article), but GUI interfaces to make custom configuration changes easy.  And as always, Linux was written as a network operating system from its inception and has long since been successful in this arena.

    Microsoft Outlook, IE, and the Office Suite
    Undeniably, Ximians Evolution email and productivity application has been making inroads with  companies struggling to address the licensing and market dominance of Microsoft Outlook.  Evolution provides an almost mirror of the Outlook features and functionality at a substantially better price and with far more gentle licensing terms.  A major leader in the Linux applications world, Evolution is certainly not the only competing tool to Outlook.  There are others well worth mentioning to keep people clear on just how much really exists for Linux.  A couple other options I know of personally among many: phpgroupware and billworkgroup.

    To address the functionality and use of Internet Explorer we also find Linux based web browsers with noteworthy performance and compatibility.  Among a few of the choices, all of which provide an excellent browsing experience are Netscapes Mozilla, KDE Konquerer, Gnome Galeon, and Opera.  As an added experience benefit, these distinct browsers operate well with one another on the same Linux system, which tends to be unique to Linux and is a real benefit for the many people who must use more than just IE browsers.

    Of course, in the general shrink-wrapped applications categories now available for Linux, a standout remains SUNs StarOffice Suite, and its comparable Opensource version, OpenOffice well used world wide.  Fully compatible with Microsoft and many other applications, the suite offers a feature rich environment that is similar to the Microsoft Office Professional experience and gains from its stability and performance in the Linux environment -- as well as in its far lower price.  It may be further validation of a trend among Linux applications to provide More for Less.

    Custom and Proprietary Applications
    In business settings where a history of legacy applications exist, Linux offers corporate IT and software development teams the tools for long-term benefits.  In a number of situations, business applications have been home grown and significantly modified with custom functionality and code around their NT environment.  In such situations the question remains the same.

    Is it more beneficial to rewrite custom applications for the 2000+ environment or to begin a transition to Opensource?  In a number of cases, the mid-to-long term benefits are so apparent that a shift to Opensource becomes not only rational, but also obvious.  Many IT leaders I've talked with prefer to begin a transition now, rather than to rewrite twice -- once for NT's retirement and the second time for long term benefits of Opensource.  To help facilitate a move to Opensource, there are many established tools for Linux porting.

    Also, for those considering the near term impact, there are useful tools to help lessen the pain of any transition by letting you run Windows programs under Linux native including Wine, which is an Opensource Windows API emulator for Linux.  For those who are locked in to their Microsoft applications for some time due to licensing terms, there is always the opportunity to use the reasonably priced commercial alternatives to run this software under Linux such as: CrossOver Office, which is a company owned product that allows use of MS Office products running under Linux; and Win4Lin, also a company product that allows the running of Windows software under Linux.

    Waiting May Not Pay Off
    Waiting longer to make a decision, for example until the completion of NT retirement, and then move to the benefits of Opensource may potentially result in greater long term costs and a more difficult road.  If the paradigm is shifting, and the cost basis and even the support basis is changing so dramatically in the next year or two with NT retiring, etc., the timing for a decision becomes more urgent.

    Therefore, now is a very reasonable moment to assess what may be gained from both the licensing freedoms and the benefits of using Linux.

    If a corporation is already beginning the transition plan from NT to something else, it is in the best interest financially and strategically to assess the benefits of Linux.  Undeniably, with the advent of ever improved and mainstream applications for Linux and the continued retirement of NT server support, there has never been a more opportune time to switch operating systems.

    Mark Rais has written a number of articles and books to help those seeking to better understand the benefits of Linux including: the new beginner Linux book, Linux for the Rest of Us, the featured article Moving to Linux: Introduction to Linux and the article Getting Linux on to the Desktop.

    Rais' experience also includes over six years as a senior manager in the IT industry.  For more information on getting started with Linux please see our Linux Help page.

    Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.  Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, 2000, and Exchange Server are the registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.  In some cases the term NT has been used to help denote Microsoft NT, and the term MS is used to help denote Microsoft owned products.  ALL other service marks, trademarks, and registered trademarks are owned by their respective companies.
    The information on this web page is published explicitly as opinions and is not to be deemed factual or verified information.  For factual information refer to more than one source and judge for your self.

    For personal help or answers to questions, please visit our message boards.

    html 4145
    Copyright 2004, 2005 Mark Rais   All Rights Reserved.

    Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.
    All other trademarks
    and registered trademarks on this entire web site are owned by their respective companies.
    This site is not related or affiliated with any other sites.