Subject: Re: support for a small US college going GNU?
From: "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2005 14:24:39 -0700
Sat, 16 Jul 2005 14:24:39 -0700
on Fri, Jul 15, 2005 at 10:10:35AM -0500, Joe Corneli (jcorneli@math.utexas.edu) wrote:
> 
> I've been corresponding a little with the new CIO of my "alma mater"
> (New College of Florida, a small public "liberal arts" school in
> Sarasota) about switching the college over to GNU/Linux.  It seems
> iffy, but if whole governments can do it, I think a small, liberal,
> college ought to be able to achieve the same thing.  Furthermore, I
> think the issue of security should cinch the argument.  But the CIO,
> Erich Matola, points out that switching architectures would require
> funding.  Presumably this is true; does anyone have an idea about the
> actual numbers here?  Are there people out there who can get in a bid
> that would blow MS/Apple out of the water?

Nothing specific, though I've had similar questions myself.

I worked for a while with a non-profit which was the victim^Wbeneficiary
of Microsoft bribes^Wlargess, in the form of a $100m 5 year grant.
Actually, that broke down to some $88m "worth" of software and materials
(some of the training and course guides were actually useful), and $12m
in actual cash.  That last being distributed over some 3000 locations
over five years works out to about $800 per location per year.
Significantly less than the cost of rooting out viruses and spyware even
at reduced rates....

The experience did suggest though that a deal, even if only nominal
dollars were involved (say:  2500 desktops of RH / SuSE "valued" at $200
per == $1m), might smooth the ruffled feathers of administrators and
politicos otherwise having to answer to why they "left all the Microsoft
money on the table".  Add in some real value -- professional services,
support, a few servers -- and you've got the makings of something which
might actually fly from both the grantor and grantee perspective.  IBM's
the obvious source of this, should they be willing.  One problem was
trying to figure out how to approach them on this sort of matter.


The other thing to keep in mind is that any migration should be phased.
IBM's got a pretty sane Redbook for desktop GNU/Linux migrations:

    http://publib-b.boulder.ibm.com/redbooks.nsf/RedbookAbstracts/sg246380.html?Open

   1. Make the case.  Identify current problem areas with campus IT
      services, proposed Free Software solutions, and likely benefits.
      Keep in mind disadvantages as well.

   2. Start with specific apps (on 'Doze boxes) which can be
      cross-platform, services and servers, and technical / limited use
      desktops.

   3. Identify migration hurdles.  AD, calendar apps, financial apps,
      and single-platform applications are the most difficult to move.

      AD can largely be addressed by LDAP, though the situation is more
      rough-and-tumble.  
      
      Multiple web-based calendaring applications exist and are the
      likely best option.  Several of these are very popular among
      academic institutions, including one product now marketed by
      Oracle, the Oracle Collaboration Suite.

      Single-platform applications, usually either financial apps or
      domain specific (e.g.:  student management, instructor gradebook,
      library cataloging) are a special case and should be supported in
      place and/or transitioned independently.

   4. Try to change one thing at a time.  Transitioning first to
      cross-platform apps, *then* to another platform, means that you
      can iron out the application wrinkles first, and the OS issues
      later.  

      There's a school of thought which says you want to minimize the
      duration of change for any given user group, in which case, it's
      best to make a set of transitions (apps, OS, etc.) together,
      rather than spreading the pain over a period of months.  Using a
      phased transition with 6/9/12 month steps, it should be possible
      to minimize impact points and match them to the academic calendar,
      preferably scheduling changes to commit at the onset of breaks
      rather than, say, at the beginning of the academic year, with all
      that that entails.

      Start too, with a small group of technically adept users likely to
      welcome the change.  CS or other technical departments are
      probably your best bet here.

   4. Have a way out.  There are various ways in which to trial
      applications and configurations.  
      
      Remote access means you can support GNU/Linux configurations over
      XDMCP, VNC, or similar techniques.  
      
      Legacy MS Windows also offers remote access options, though with
      very little of the flexibilty offered by GNU/Linux.  Tools such as
      rdesktop and VNC can allow as-needed access to an MS Windows box,
      and possibly Windows Terminal Services (WTS).

      Another option is virtualization software such as Xen and VMWare.
      The former actually runs on base hardware, partitioning it amongst
      several guest OSs.  VMWare can run in server (base HW) or
      workstation (user-space application) mode.  Both allow access to
      multiple environments and configurations.  While not ideal, for
      users with legitimate needs to multiple operating environments,
      they're powerful tools.

   5. Examine your successes and failures and update the transition plan
      accordingly

Peace.

-- 
Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
    safety most likely voted for Bush.
    - Slashdot sig.


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