To Microsoft and Beyond!

Ok so the time has come to drop the majority of our Novell options in favour of Microsoft from the Systems Team portfolio, so here are my thoughts as to why…

  • Netware for File and Print currently just works for us, it needs relatively little maintenance which is fortunate since everyone who was looking after it is focusing in other areas – e.g. VMware/SAN, Exchange, Identity Management, Desktop Apps etc.  But Netware is a dead OS, Novell’s shifting to a Linux only operation based on SLES.  Switching to OES Linux would be a major project which we have the skills for, but these are with team members who are already busy!  Switching to Windows File and Print would be a similar sized project, but we have more available people with skills – and Windows is a far more familiar environment for us.
  • Zen for Desktops has moved to Zen Configuration Manager and with this it seems to be losing it’s own identity.  It’s a mechanism for delivery standard MS stuff – e.g. Group Policy, MSI’s.  Snapshots seem to be going, and there’s no mention of application virtualisation – which has a lot of merits for us.  So use Zen and MS tools or just use MS tools?
  • Novell have their own Virtualisation solution, so how well are they going to play with VMware?  Same could be said of Microsoft too, but there are a lot of third party tools (VRanger etc) which work well with Windows guests on VMware.  I suspect they will expand to encompass MS’s Virtual Server and/or Xen, but I suspect that the support for guest OS’s will be for Windows – so running virtual OES linux installs on anything other than Xen may be restrictive.
  • We have a number of Open Source systems running, but getting these to work on SLES has proven hard work.  primerily because the versions of packages on SLES are “frozen” at versions older than is needed for these Open Source systems to run.  Updating the packages then breaks other parts of the system.  The same applies to Redhat.  These Open Source solutions develop too fast for the Enterpise Linux flavours, therefore we’ll be running them on some other flavour of Linux – Ubuntu is the current favorite as it’s supported by VMware.  So we could end up running, SLES (OES Linux), Ubuntu and Windows.  If shift away from Novell, we’ll be most Windows with a little bit of Ubuntu and a little bit of SLES for IDM and perhaps Access Manager.
  • Finally running Windows with PCs as Domain Members gives us a couple more plus points…
    • Single Sign on for Outlook and Sharepoint and IIS apps (BB)
    • Other applications work as designed – e.g. Symantec AV.
    • IPSEC can be used to implement “Domain Isolation” – which is a great gain in security.

Of course, there are downsides to this switch…

  • Learning new tools in place of Zenworks – but then learning a new and complex OS isn’t easy either.
  • PCs would have to be domain members – so Staff running as local Admin would be a problem.  Application virtualisation may be the answer here, as creating apps for delivery could be easier than with Zenworks so I.T. support or even the end users could manage it.  Also use of VMware player or VDI could be used to provide a “Sandbox” for users own apps – this could also be used to provide the LIS “Corporate Desktop” to Staff and Students on other platforms.
  • Much of the Web infrastructure will be Microsoft Centric – i.e. will work with IE, but not that well for Firefox/Safari etc – they become Second Class citizens – again a VMware Player IE browser may be the answer.

Of course there’s the option to switch in other directions – e.g. Novell only solution (Groupwise, Teaming and Conferencing, Suse Linux on the Desktop) or even a completely open source solution – both of which would be perhaps too radical for delivery at this time!

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