Originally Published: Tuesday, 28 November 2000 Author: Chris Campbell
Published to: enhance_articles_sysadmin/Sysadmin Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Migrating Penguins

Chris has a fantastic idea to make it easy for WindowsNT administrators to migrate to Linux. If you're a WindowsNT administrator, or a Linux developer with some time to devote to writing a great migration tool, this piece is for you!

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It is interesting that the focus of many open source projects tend to be desktop applications, and yet still most open source folks look to the statistics of who is running Linux for their server needs as the litmus of how well the movement is doing. A fair many people would quip that Linux is not quite yet ready for a desktop market that swims with myrmidinial mouse clickers. Perhaps that is why the focus is on the desktop?

Most of the server concepts were well established within Unix and needed to be ported to Linux. For the most part, this has been done, and the results are a Unix-like operating system that is easier to navigate than most non-Linux Unices. Some server projects, such as Samba take it a step forward and bring in functionality for Windows clients, file sharing and printers. Novell themselves have ported their crown jewel, the NDS, to Linux. In the background, Microsoft launches their attempt at directory services with the ADS.

Here's the thing. Consider the statistics involving network Servers. Consider first how statistics are gathered: Sales. Not accurate in this instance when one of the items is free... The other option? Polls. Telephone and Otherwise. Okay, now who answers telephone polls? Questionaires for free network magazines? I did at one point, but that was back at the time when I was at a small organization. Now that I administrate thousands of users, I just don't have the time. It would be my guess that most of these statistics are small to medium sized organizations. Honestly, in my experience, most larger enterprise facilities run Unix of one variant or another. The migration to Linux is an easy one. Chances are that the Unix Administrator is running Linux at home. Existing installations with hardware specific Unices, such as HP will probably stay with HP; that is until they get tired of paying $10,000 for a hard drive. When the budget axe comes down, the prospect of buying cheaper hardware becomes appealing- especially with a free Unix-variant that runs on the box. Microsoft doesn't seem to enter into the picture, does it?

No, Microsoft's focus is the small and medium sized market. The simple interface is designed so that an individual only knowing a moderate amount about Windows NT can perform basic administrative tasks. Set-up is easy enough, and the Microsoft mentality seems to assume that once and individual has set-up the box with little or no knowledge, that they will continue and learn how to administrate the server. Windows NT can perform well, if properly cared for.

Linux has become well known, at least as a buzzword, and that adds to it's strength. It is known rather commonly that Linux is extremely stable, free and now popular. At this point, many corporations are considering Linux as an option, and Microsoft's only weapon against this is that it takes quite a while to learn Linux, and as money is time, then total cost of ownership goes up. (They notably ignore the time that it takes to learn NT to a degree enough to make it decently functional.)

And now for a little scrutiny for Linux zealots. It's great to develop the platform and tell everyone how great it is and that they should come over to Linux, but it is much more effective if we could assist people in migrating. To this end, I have been writing an ongoing series on Windows NT to Linux Administration. But even my series assumes that the Windows NT Administrator has conceptual experience. We need something focused even more on the small to mid-sized business.

What we need is a migration tool, preferably for both NT and Novell.

The program would prompt the NT administrator for:

  • Server to migrate from
  • Domain Name
  • Administrative login
  • Administrative password

Next, the migration would analyze the NT server to determine:

  • User accounts
    • Hash file to sync passwords? (Something akin to L0pht Crack?)
  • Groups and Group Memberships
  • ACLS
  • Shared Files and Folders
  • Shared Printers
  • Port Scan for Internet services
    • HTTP
    • FTP
    • DNS
    • SMTP/POP
    • x500/LDAP/NDS
      • Export directory
    • DHCP / Relay
    • Routing / Firewall
    • SNMP client
  • Check for Tape Drives
    • Interface for back-up scheduling
  • Printers
  • Modems
    • Remote Access Service
  • Proxy Server
  • SQL Server
  • Clustering (NT enterprise)
  • Terminal Server (NT Terminal Server) {Thin Client}
  • Get Server's IP and IPX information.

  • Build and Execute Installation Script
    • Install all daemons, as detected by the information gathered - (Aptget to the rescue!)
    • Copy Daemon specific data (web pages, ftp, DNS info, etc.)
    • Install all users
    • Sync user passwords
    • Copy all data
    • Sync ACLS
    • Issue shutdown command to NT box. :)
    • Upon NT server shutdown, assume IP / IPX information of NT box

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the best way to handle a tool like this would be as a Linux pre-installation tool that tailors the installation to the requirements on the Windows NT box. This would put the onus of doing this project better in the hands of a major distribution. Debian seems perfect, with its installation being so exacting (and having apt-get); Red Hat has the best name recognition to do it, but in some ways that little hat looks remarkably like a window pane when you catch it out the corner of your eye. Mandrake's Diskdrake and other tools are probably a little more friendly to an NT administrator anyway.

Microsoft's interoperability has always been geared toward migration, so why not take a cue from that and make migration to linux as painless as possible? Then the small to medium sized companies can look to migrate without first having an individual that it capable of administrating both Windows NT and Linux. Combine an easy conversion with free software and ease of use, and for a smaller penny-pinching company, Linux is the only intelligent option. This super easy migration would make the concept much more appealing to any undecided administrators too. With the improvements in the user and administrative interface, this could really take the ease of administration, at least for the simpler stuff, down to the level of Windows NT administration. Which would give the existing Windows NT administrator extra time to do more important things... like learning Linux.

Chris Campbell is the Project Manager of the Sysadmin section of Linux.com. He can be mailed at soup@linux.com.

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