5 golden rules

ANY company that wants to save a bundle in software licensing fees and build a productive, stable and secure computing environment for its users should download a free workbook entitled “Five Golden Rules for a Successful Ubuntu Desktop Migration.”

Produced by Canonical, the commercial sponsor of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, the book offers some pragmatic advise to companies that want to migrate from a proprietary system like Microsoft Windows to a free and open source platform.

The benefits of such a move can be substantial, as the regional government of Andalusia, in Spain, found. The government this year completes an ambitious information technology project to improve IT in schools throughout the region, a plan that began with installing 220,000 Ubuntu-based workstations in more than 2,000 schools.

Today, the system is used by 600,000 students and 75,000 teachers, and by the end of the year it will connect 4,000 schools, about 1.5 million students and nearly 200,000 teachers.

The Indian state of Kerala, which had installed open-source computers in more than 8,100 schools, also armed its lawmakers with Ubuntu-based laptops to help increase productivity and collaboration in its legislative assembly. By going open source, the government saved tens of thousands of dollars on software licensing costs, and freed up funds for IT projects that directly benefited the people.

For Chicago-based financial services company Equitec, the payoff in migrating to open source was better performance, simplified management and hardware savings of 70 percent. The company, which had run its mission-critical, proprietary trading software on 100 Windows-based servers, moved the same workload onto just 30 Ubuntu-based servers, realizing dramatic savings in hardware, space and power costs. Equitec also experienced a significant reduction in system management overhead.

System migrations such as these, however, are not achieved without serious planning and a certain amount of pain, especially when users resist change. Canonical’s workbook steps you through the process and highlights what companies can do to avoid some of the common pitfalls. Its five golden rules are:

Rule 1: Make a thorough plan. This begins with building a business case for the migration, detailing the benefits it will bring to individual users and the organization as a whole. The plan should factor in savings in software licensing and hardware upgrade costs. (Canonical has a separate workbook, “Crunch time on the Enterprise Desktop ,” that helps you build a business case.)

Rule 2: Target the right users. Begin with users who can benefit from the shift to open source right away, rather than aiming to migrate as many desktops as possible. These will be users of applications for which there are already open source equivalents. Training requirements will be an important consideration too. Some users will need very little help while others will need more guidance.

Rule 3: Find the equivalent applications. For most users, applications are the essential tools that let them do their job effectively. Getting the applications right on the Ubuntu desktop is critical for

achieving user acceptance. Give users applications that are largely the same as (or better than) the proprietary desktop applications they use today. A comprehensive list of open-source programs and their proprietary equivalents can be found in www.osalt.com.

Rule 4: Get the right management tools in place. A common objection to deploying an alternative operating system on the enterprise desktop is that it adds an extra layer of systems management.

Rule 5: Start with a small pilot. The golden rule with pilot deployments is to start small. Even if you want the pilot to encompass a larger group, start off with just a handful of desktops.

That way, any of the initial issues can be ironed out with just a small user group. Once the big issues are out of the way, you can start to roll the pilot out to more users.

“Five Golden Rules for a Successful Ubuntu Desktop Migration” can be found here: http://bit.ly/N7nezW

“Crunch time on the Enterprise Desktop” can be found here: http://bit.ly/Ofq96S

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