What issues did you face? Was it what you expected?
I think we were pleasantly surprised by how smooth the implementation went. With the implementation of a standards-based operating system like Linux--open source--there was a little bit of hesitation ... because we really didn't have that breadth of experience in dealing with those vendors [such as Dell and Oracle] and understanding exactly how they would support that new environment. But I think one of the things we were very surprised by was how seamless and smooth an implementation it was. Any of the horror stories people might have been thinking about [in terms of] an open-source operating system like Linux, and whether or not enterprise-class vendors would provide the same level of support, I think all those notions were dispelled very early on. We had very good success with it.
In addition, not only did we implement our new Oracle E-Business Suite on Linux, but we also migrated many of our other legacy applications, including our Lawson ERP environment. We implemented certain elements of the Oracle E-Business Suite, but we kept our ERP financials, payroll and HR applications on Lawson.
So even with Lawson, for the back end, we unplugged [IBM] Informix, which was the relational database we were running Lawson on, [and] plugged in Oracle running on Linux. From a back-end point of view, we were able to swap out the entire infrastructure to Linux. The only reason we didn't migrate the actual applications on the Lawson side is because ... they didn't support Linux. I think we ended up moving it to a Microsoft-based application server.
So, at the end of the day, the best part of all this is that it worked. It worked very well. Scalability has never been an issue, operability has never been an issue, and the enterprise vendors we have partnered with have completely embraced the environment. That was all kind of capped off when Oracle came out and actually took over support of our operating environment in addition to the apps on the database.
What are some of the things you would recommend IT executives think about when considering such a migration?
From the perspective of what business should be thinking about if they are evaluating a conversion to Linux, first and foremost, make sure that the vendor partners you are working with, or are planning to work with, have fully embraced the environment. That's key--understanding [whether vendors will] be able to provide the same level of support for Linux as they do for other operating systems.
I think from a skill-set perspective for the staff, there are obviously differences in every Unix-based derivative, but the teams that are good Unix-based administrators took to the Linux environment very, very quickly.
It wasn't like I had to go out and retrofit our system admin staff to bring in the Linux experts because we had a bunch of Solaris experts. It truly was a very quick learning curve for these guys. Most of them loaded it up on their notebook computers or desktop systems. They got familiar with some of the nuances, and they quickly picked it up. So if you've got good technology guys, the differences are not that large. I think the only other thing we thought of was just making sure we knew what we were getting into--going into it with our eyes wide open.
I never dreamed it would go as easily as it did. I would like to think it was because we had a well-thought-out strategy in that we picked the right vendors to partner with.