we’ve done it! our migration to open source has finally been completed!

Not without its bugs in the first few working days in our new “open” world, we have finally completed our migration to open source!

For the first time we have now shut down our old Windows servers, and are now running every possible application we can on open source platforms.  The final “big switch” was done over xmas by Rich and I, swapping all the main desktops for new Dell machines running  ubuntu 8.04 lts, and crucially the phone system from Trixbox.

So this is the new configuration we have – its a recipie list for UK SMEs thinking of migrating to open source:

Open source machines (15) and phone system

WINDOWS (7)

  • a VISTA “pool” machine to run SAGE accounting system – we cannt migrate this to Linux and swapping accounting systems is not viable – SAGE is the UK SME default accounting package and has widespread adoption and credability.  As far as I know, there is not an open source accounting system that is considered robust enough for UK HMRC inspections (systematically paying incorrect taxation is the only thing I could go to prison for as a result of this migration!) We also use this machine via remote desktop for ad hoc applications that will only work on windows (an old copy of Adobe Homesite for extended find a replace of website files is the main one, as there isnt a GUI linux program for this)
  • a VISTA desktop machine to run our graphic design software, Adobe Illustrator, Coreldraw and Photoshop – all industry standard software we cannt do without and stay in business.  Due to the demands on that CPU, it wasnt practical to have all the windows apps on one machine.
  • 4 legacy windows boxes (98/2K, XP) that are essentially embedded into printing machines that just cannt be replaced as they are essential to running the machines – no choice here.
  • a “legacy” XP laptop that will be replaced with Ubuntu when it dies in due course.

So, as you can see we have made huge progress since we started this journey to migrate us, a UK SME to open source software in early 2007.  It has been a long time coming, expensive to migrate, and in the end we have decided that some applications just have to stay on Windows.  That said, I am absolutely delighted to be in the position we are now, which is a much stronger platform for the future that were we were.

You may be interested in our experiences of migrating, in a short bullet list form:

Positives:

  • We have practically 100% compliance with software license conditions for everything we use in line with our values.
  • Open source is, in our opinion, more reliable than windows, and often has better features than the comparable windows software (take my migration to zimbra as an example).
  • We get lots of support from the FOSS community and are proud to be part of it
  • Ongoing cash license fees are low. We currently pay for Zimbra Standard and Zimbra Mobile at $1125/year – considerably more than the £400 a year it was when we first started using it in 2007.  The main reason for using it is the online sync for calendar and contacts for 2 users (the directors) – the rest of the features we can easily do without, so may revert to the open source edition at some time.  We also have a 5 year cycle of SAGE upgrades, but thats pretty cheap in comparison at £300 ish.
  • We have control of our IT investment future, and are not locked to one vendor with endless upgrade costs over years to come for MS OSs and the MS OFFICE packages.

Negatives:

  • We have a lot of different operating systems to support now, I can count 7 easily, but it hasnt proved to be much a problem so far.  The linux OSs are part of packages eg TRIXBOX, FREENAS, the embedded windows ones are not networked and never need touching, and the remaining VISTA machines are manageable
  • The majority of the business world dosnt accept common open file formats, eg ODS, so we have to send MS version copies outside the company.
  • It takes a lot longer than you think to migrate, especially if you have to write your own code.
  • The cost of the migration has been significant, the vast majority in reprogramming and improving our old MS ACCESS MIS system into a web based framework.  Short term pain, long term gain, it needed to be done for business continuity reasons, but its a cost that needs recognising.
  • EKIGA / HUDLITE interfaced with TRIXBOX isnt as user freindly as our old non SIP VOIP system called SWYX, at least not as yet with 2 weeks use under our belt.

We still have some bugs to address, notably problems with the SNOM phones not interacting relaibly with HUDLITE and the M3s not making outging calls , but we are essentially complete.

I’m sure this could go for a while, but I’ll stop there.

Any more questions, please ask!

Huge thanks to Richard Jones our IT manager who has delivered this project with total commitment, and Jake, “Dave” and the rest of the team at Senokian who have guided us, fixed bugs, got us out of the s**t a few times when we broke things by tinkering and generally supported us all the way at all hours of the day and night.

I hope this post, which has taken some time to prepare, is useful to some – if it is, please, please leave a comment as I’d really enjoy hearing from people who have read this summary and laugh, cry, or think, yes, we could do that too, becuase you can.

  • Julian

    Hi

    I’ve been following your blog since you started planning to migrate to Open Source – well done !!

    Our company has been going down the same road, but we started earlier but will probably finish much later , and we dont intend on replacing our windows desktops (yet).

    The experiences with replacing an MS Access DB with a web based system, mirror ours being a more expensive exercise than first thought.

    Lastly, as I’m the Herefordshire Linux User Group LUGMaster, do you mind if I mention your blog, and thsi entry to our list ? I’m sure many in our group would be interested !

  • http://www.mercianlabels.com Adrian

    Hi Julian

    sure, send the url around your LUG, I’d love to have their comments and views on our migration and final software list.

  • http://townx.org/ Elliot Smith

    Congratulations, Adrian. I’ve written a blog entry in celebration:

    http://townx.org/blog/elliot/west-midlands-sme-completes-its-migration-open-source

  • http://www.devel.co.uk/ Paul Cooper

    Adrian, congrats on completing the transition, and I’m glad I was able to help in some small way. Please keep blogging about your experiences – while there are a some good case studies about SME migration (although none as in depth as your posts put together) there aren’t any I can think of that cover the migration at 3, 6, 12, 24+ months, with the unexpected benefits and pitfalls, etc.

  • http://www.theopensourcerer.com The Open Sourcerer

    Hi Adrian,

    That’s a great post and many congratulations. I agree with Paul Cooper, that there are few good examples of the migration process and especially those that are not wearing rose tinted spectacles.

    We all know FOSS isn’t perfect and we all know that moving from a very familiar and comfortable place to a new residence is not that easy. But the benefits are there for those who persevere.

    Please keep up the occasional post so we can get some idea on reliability, maintenance, and ongoing cost factors.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.mercianlabels.com Adrian
  • Thomas

    Adrian,

    Congratulations, from a public sector employee that weeps at the huge sums your taxes that we waste/spend on proprietary licences and the huge sums we pay vendors for a poor service but have no choice due to lock in.

    I sincerely hope your company reaps the rewards in the years ahead.

    Thomas

  • Martyn

    Adrian

    WELL DONE – we’re not far behind you.

    Martyn

    PS – if you want a (Linux) web-based, UK focused (and compliant), open source accounting system let me know. I have one you can try :-D

    Martyn

  • tom

    I was wondering what is the configuration of the Legacy “embedded” XP machines. Are they running XP on boards installed in the printers, or are they white box PC’s connected by a USB or a ethernet to the printers, running custom software.

    If they are not embedded boards, chance are good that you can run the images under the Linux Kernel KVM as virtual machines. Getting rid of more boxes.

    The Vista desktops are also candidates for VM machines, depending on your overall setup. The pool machine machine running the SAGE software could be migrated to a VM, depending on system loading, etc.

    The Graphics design machine sounds like probably the last to migrate to a VM as hardware dies, and new machines get purchased

    There are various capabilitywko of virtual machines such as live migrations, backups, etc, that are hard to come by on a stock PC.

    Of course all of this requires a business case (you might not have one at the moment) and a plan (which of course you already know).

    Tom

  • http://www.mercianlabels.com Adrian

    Hi Tom

    Thanks for the comments. WE havent really explored VM yet, as the legacy applciations refered to are basically boxes to run custom numbering kit with vendor specific custom software. Its just not worth changing, as “it just works”, usually off ther network, and a semi skilled opertor can just punch the number in and rnu the machine. Thats a basic description. I havent yet tried to buy replacement kit on linux, that will be an interesting discussion as its VERY niche!

    adrian

  • http://t9productions.com/ Nathaniel Eliot

    Can you give (or point towards) a run-down of your system’s starting state, and roughly what you spent (including people costs) on the overall migration? Those added bits would make this blog an even more valuable case study for companies unsure about migrating to OS.

  • http://www.mercianlabels.com Adrian

    Hi Nathaniel

    I plan to do a detailed cost analysis and post it on this blog in due course, just not got around to it yet!

    understood, I appreciate that it will be of interest to many.

    regs

    adrian

  • http://t9productions.com/ Nathaniel Eliot

    Awesome! I look forward to reading it (and passing it on).

  • Uncle B

    Please donate your old boxes to a church-group or some needy student in these hard times! To comply with the law, and with Microsoft’s leasing policy, you can now replace Microsoft OS with the free (download from the net) Ubuntu OS, which can be set to erase the hard drive of all traces of the “illegal to give away ” Microsoft system and your private information, before donation! Now, explain to your lucky recipient that all the manuals they will ever need are available for free on the internet! Just ask for them in Google! OpenOffice, which is installed already is plenty adequate for homework assignments and with a little exploring, everything else can work well too! Happy computing!