Reverse Migration: From Linux to Windows

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-09-27 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The number of enterprises migrating from Windows to Linux is a growing concern for Microsoft. But it's not a one-way street. Some companies—unhappy with their open-source experience—are making the switch back to Windows.

As Microsoft Corp. has acknowledged more than once, the company is losing business to Linux deployments. But the story doesn't end there. Some large enterprises have taken the Linux challenge only to switch back to Windows, dissatisfied with the open-source alternative.

Problems with application incompatibilities, poor performance, escalating support costs and an immature Linux ecosystem lead the list of complaints executives at two companies that have completed the switch from Linux back to Windows cited recently.

Microsoft sees the open-source threat looming ever larger. Read about it here.

Personal care products maker Combe Inc., of White Plains, N.Y., developed and administered its Web sites with an ISP running a Linux-Oracle platform about nine years ago and started the switch back to Windows two years ago.

"We will not be looking at Linux in the near future," said Combe CIO Tim Case. "Even though [Linux] has moved into the realm of a production-level system and may become a competitor to Microsoft, that is just not the case where global support and robust development are required."

Combe was initially wary about its sites running on Linux, but it moved to offset that risk by making sure its provider contract had built-in service-level agreements. Case said he was surprised by how well the system worked, but Linux became an issue when Combe's Web applications needed a database, and the only option available to the company was one from Oracle Corp.

Case also was concerned that his company did not have appropriate in-house Linux expertise. Those concerns were proved worthwhile two years ago when the ISP gave Combe two weeks' notice that it was closing its doors.

Luckily, Combe had already begun investigating alternative ISPs. Not long after, Combe turned to Microsoft Certified Partner Alpine Business Systems, of Somerville, N.J., to help migrate its Web sites to Windows Server 2003, Internet Information Services 6.0 and SQL Server 2000.

Click here to read how Microsoft is adding to its anti-open-source arsenal.

The move to Windows was "seamless and efficient. The costs to move were minimal as compared with the alternative of developing a new set of sites," Case said. "We have not had an outage in two years, where before we experienced downtime at least two to three times a year. We have also lowered our TCO [total cost of ownership]."

Next Page: High cost of Linux support.

Another company that has migrated off Linux to Windows is Mountain High Holdings LLC, the operator of Mountain High Resort, a ski and snowboarding resort in Wrightwood, Calif.

Three years ago, the resort implemented an e-commerce system that used Red Hat Inc. Linux, The Apache Software Foundation's Apache Web servers and MySQL AB's MySQL database; the system was programmed in PHP.

"The decision to go with Linux was a cost-based one," Michele Roy, the resort's chief financial officer, told eWEEK. "We had not budgeted the e-commerce system setup in that year's business plan."

The potential savings were quickly erased by ongoing support expenses, Roy said. "We spent more during the first three months troubleshooting the Linux system than if we had purchased the Windows solution to begin with," she said. "The Linux system could not handle the layers of information needed for internal control of the resort."

Roy also had concerns about the security and reliability of the system. System failures and escalating costs had the resort reconsidering its Linux decision when, over a weekend in late-summer 2002, in the midst of its season-pass sale—accounting for the sale of about 5,000 passes—the system went down. The e-commerce component stopped working for about a day.

"There was a limit set up within the program that said you can only order 'x' amount of products within one transaction," Roy said. "When one of our guests went over the limit, it crashed the whole store. We then had to manually identify the erroneous credit card charges."

At the end of the 2002-2003 season, Mountain High decided to rebuild the site on Windows. "Our current season-pass sale began on Sept. 1, and the e-commerce site has seen growth of over 100 percent," Roy said. "If we had not gone with the Windows solution, there is no way we could have processed all the passes." Mountain High still uses Linux on a dedicated server for its community forum.

Is Linux keeping Microsoft awake at night? Check out what our readers have to say.

Such customers may not outweigh the numbers switching to Linux and sticking with it, but Microsoft executives will take any wins they can. The biggest challenges are those customers moving from Unix to Linux, who "don't want to rewrite their applications, and most of their staff only know Java," said Martin Taylor, Microsoft's Linux platform strategist, in Redmond, Wash. "The question I sometimes ask customers is if they want to [maintain and manage] system-level software."

Taylor said customers have applications written in Java on top of Linux as well as applications in .Net on top of Windows, and they want their applications to talk to one another. "That's where more of the dialogue is—from an interoperability perspective. It's not about plumbing because ... the plumbing [is already] done," Taylor said.

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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.

 
 
 
 
 
























 
 
 
 
 
 

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