The Next Phase for Migration

Transforming critical data from one platform to another has always been the hardest part about migrating to Linux. So why are there so few third-party tools available to help you through the process?

One of the most difficult challenges in migrating to Linux from any other platform -- but especially those platforms that are Windows-based -- has always been the migration itself.

You can teach users how to move a mouse in GNOME instead of Windows. You can teach them how to type ls instead of dir. You can also show them the resources -- in the form of books, videos and software tutorials -- to get them through the process without calling a mutiny. Essentially, the more money you spend in retraining and motivating, the easier migration tends to happen (to a point). But you can also substitute time for money and still make everything work fairly easily.

What doesn't seem to happen easily is the transformation of the critical data from one platform to the other. During the migration, you want to keep or mirror things already in existence, such as directory structures, application settings and so on. The more you can keep -- the more you can make the new environment look and work like the old -- the easier the transition becomes.

While there are all sorts of products that promise to ease the pain of migration, I've only found one that was truly impressive: Versora's Progression Desktop for Linux. This product could do automated migrations from Windows to Linux using simple rules. Not only could it bring in the settings I've talked about, but it could also bring Outlook mail into Thunderbird (or Evolution, KMail, etc.), Explorer settings into Firefox or Konqueror, MS Office settings into OpenOffice.org, and so on. The supported Windows versions ranged from Windows 98 and up, and the supported Linux versions read like a who's-who of all the major players.

I speak of Progression in the past tense, because this past June, Kaseya purchased Versora's assets. The following was posted by Mike Sheffey, Versora's CEO, on the Kaseya Web site:

Dear Versora Customers,

On June 18th Kaseya Corporation purchased all the technology assets of Versora. The Progression Desktop product line is being retired and will be available as an integrated module for user state migration and configuration management with the Kaseya Product Suite. This integration is expected to be complete by the end of 2007.

As users' machines become more personalized and customized to meet their needs, managing the individual user state becomes more of a challenge. With the integration of Versora's technology into the Kaseya management framework, managing a user's day to day state and assisting in seamless data migration to new desktop operating systems such as Microsoft Vista and Mac OS X will be a great pairing of two superior technologies.

It has been a pleasure working with you over the years and we appreciate all of your support and feedback. With the help of you our customers and partners, we were able to deliver a very valuable solution that will live on and grow as an integrated solution at Kaseya.

Very Truly Yours,

Mike Sheffey

One line, in particular, speaks volumes: "As users' machines become more personalized and customized to meet their needs, managing the individual user state becomes more of a challenge." Coming from a company that knows how to create a good product, that's something that should make you take notice.

It's interesting that when you search for "Linux migration" in Google, the first entry to pop up is a sponsored link offering to "compare Windows to Linux." That link is sponsored by Microsoft. A sponsored link from Symantec also appears, as well as some from IBM, Dell and others. The first two natural links were for www.linuxmigration.com, and further down are the usual suspects: Red Hat, Novell and so on.

Given the complexity of the task, I find it hard to believe that the only truly good tool for desktop migration is gone with nothing there to replace it. Could this hamper the adoption of Linux? Could this be a market opportunity that's being overlooked? Or could it be that the task really isn't as difficult as I've always made it out to be -- that migrating settings isn't substantial enough to warrant a third-party tool?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts. Feel free to pass them on at integration@insightbb.com or post them below, and I'll address them in a future column.

About the Author

Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on Linux, Unix and certification, including the Security+ Study Guide, Fourth Edition. He can be reached at eadulaney@comcast.net.

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