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IBM Launches NT to Linux Migration Plan

Microsoft is expected to pull the plug on support for Windows NT 4.0 Server by the end of 2004, and at least one vendor -- IBM Corp. -- smells blood.

At the Linux World event and expo in New York, IBM on Monday was announcing a new Windows NT to Linux migration program that it expects could entice as many as 1 million existing NT 4.0 customers to switch over to Linux.

IBM's new program is designed to address common Windows NT 4.0 usage scenarios, such as file and print serving, Web and application serving, security, systems and network management, collaboration and database applications. Not surprisingly -- this is IBM, after all -- the new program also prescribes a strong dose of Big Blue's key technologies, including the Lotus Notes/Domino messaging and collaboration platform, the DB2 Universal Database, and the Tivoli systems management application stack.

Scott Handy, vice president of Linux strategy and market development with IBM, says that notwithstanding IBM's avowed interest in the promotion of Linux, Big Blue is committed to matching customers with the platforms and technologies that are best suited to their requirements.

"We're pretty pro-Linux, yeah, just because we think there's more flexibility in options once you get there, ... but there's a lot of cases where Windows will be the best answer," he says. "One of the reasons that people come to us is that we do have all of these solutions on Linux, but we also have solutions on Windows, so we can look and see which runs best [on which platform]."

Big Blue will tap Samba, an open source implementation of Microsoft's Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, to support file and print serving on Linux systems, along with Notes/Domino for messaging and collaboration and DB2 as a SQL Server replacement. Handy notes that IBM has offered Exchange to Notes/Domino migration tools for some time now, and speculates that SQL Server to DB2 migrations shouldn't pose much of a problem, either. "This particular program will leverage one [a database] that does a conversion from Microsoft SQL Server to DB2. They're both SQL databases, and we have partners who are trained in doing that," he says.

IBM's NT to Linux migration program will be sold through its business partners, and, to that end, Big Blue also includes an education component to help get business partners rapidly up to speed on the particulars. "We're going to offer a free course, it's a three-day, hand's-on lab course where business partners can come to get education on how to move the server and move the directory and do all of the systems administration and everything," Handy explains, adding that IBM will make these materials available via download or on CD.

What's at stake? Handy claims that as many as 2 million Windows NT 4.0 server licenses could be in play, and he says that IBM believes it can compete for at least 50 percent of this installed base. "The latest IDC data shows that there's about 2 million NT servers still out there, so we anticipate that some of those clearly will go to Windows and some will go to Linux," he says. "We're actually estimating that this could be a fifty-fifty split, and that there could be as many as a million servers coming over to Linux."

Many existing NT 4.0 servers are running on aging Intel 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro or Pentium II hardware, but Handy stresses that IBM won't automatically attempt to move these systems over to new xSeries or pSeries hardware. "Linux actually would run on a 486-based server, so it actually would run if that's what they have, whereas if they're upgrading to Windows Server 2003, they'll absolutely get new hardware," he says.

IBM has for some time now touted a trend that it calls "infrastructure simplification," which in a narrow sense amounts to consolidation on a massive scale. To that end, Handy says that Big Blue's NT to Linux migration plan offers an excellent opportunity for customers to simplify their highly distributed infrastructures onto a single large SMP server, or onto clusters of blade servers. "They're trying to do infrastructure simplification where they'd like to take 20 servers and consolidate them onto one, that could be an xSeries x440, or it could be BladeCenter," he says, noting that because Linux can run on IBM's AIX Unix operating systems, customers could also move workloads to the new Power4-based blades that Big Blue announced last year.

And Big Blue doesn't just have its sights set on NT 4.0 users: Handy says that Windows 2000 users are also fair game, as well. "The solutions we're promoting here directly apply to Windows 2000 servers as well. The reason we're highlighting Windows NT is that there's this sense of urgency with the support and the fixes running out by the end of the year," he explains.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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