Microsoft: How to Catch a Linux Migrator

Microsoft is ratcheting up efforts to catch companies migrating from Unix to Linux before they make the switch.

Microsoft Corp. is ratcheting up efforts to catch companies migrating from Unix to Linux before they make the switch.

As part of the effort, the Redmond, Wash., software giant has moved Doug Miller, current director of competitive strategy in the Windows division, to the new role of director of Unix migration strategy. In addition, Microsoft is also on track to release, before the end of June, its Services for Unix 3.0 product - the next-version software that allows greater operability between existing Unix-based enterprise systems and Windows on both the server and desktop.

SFU 3.0 will run on Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional, as well as the delayed Windows .Net server family, Miller told eWeek in an interview on Wednesday.

Miller also acknowledged that Microsoft had not done enough in the past to help customers with their migration from Unix to Windows.

"We had great products, partners and technologies, but we werent being very prescriptive ourselves about the whole migration process," he said. "So we are now focusing on pulling that all together and looking at not just technology but also what service offerings to make available and what content."

Miller also said that Microsoft had found that many enterprises on the Unix platform who wanted to move to the Intel platform, which offered greater choice and price performance, did first think about moving to Linux as it had a common API set and offered similar administration.

"There are a lot of compelling reasons to consider Linux, but we are finding that after the initial research into what it would take to do the job with Linux versus Windows, many people are hesitant to jump onto the Linux bandwagon for these long-term platform decisions," he said.

The criteria customers were generally using when considering migrating were maximizing their existing investments, lowering costs and minimizing risk – the criteria that is "ruling Linux out of large-scale penetration in the enterprise market as customers want security about who will be there to support them 10 years down the line," Miller said.

This was reflected in server operating system shipment numbers from International Data Corp., Miller said, which indicated that demand for Novells Netware and Linux had remained flat over the past five quarters, with Unix losing ground to Windows 2000 server, which now held a 60 percent-plus share of that space.

But IBM executives have previously disputed these claims, saying that in 2001 Linux was the fastest-growing operating system for the second year in a row and citing other IDC figures which showed that by the end of 2002 some nine percent of corporate IT budgets would be spent on Linux-based and enabled systems.

For its part, Sun Microsystems Inc., which produces the Unix-based Solaris operating system, recently announced enhanced support of Linux as a means to "bring the two non-Microsoft communities together. Linux and Solaris are strong cousins and we want to offer users of Windows NT an alternative and help them get out of this space," Ed Zander, the president and chief operating officer of Sun in Palo Alto, Calif., had said. "This is a win for those customers who embrace Unix and Linux and who are looking for an alternative to both IBM and Microsoft and their proprietary systems."

Linux vendors also claim that Unix is losing ground to Linux rather than Windows. Mike Evans, the vice president of business development at Linux vendor Red Hat Inc., in Research Triangle Park N.C., recently told eWeek his company was increasingly finding that Suns Solaris on RISC hardware simply could not keep up with the price/performance ratios that could be realized with Linux. "The gap between Linux and Solaris is widening," he said.

But Miller said Microsoft believed the release of its Services for the Unix 3.0 product would continue to drive customers on Unix to Windows, as it focused on the two main customer "pain" areas: Unix/Windows interoperability and migration.

The next-version product would combine SFU 2.0 and its Interix 2.2 technology in one product, without an associated price hike. While Miller would not give pricing and distribution details, he did say Microsoft planned an "attractive" pricing model.

In September 1999 Microsoft bought the assets of Softway Systems Inc., which made the Interix products for interoperability between Unix and the Microsoft Windows NT operating systems.

Miller said version 3.0 would include seamless integration, increased availability, scalability and performance as well as better manageability through a robust scripting environment and improved password synchronization.

As evidence of recent customer wins, Miller touted Italian financial services group, Gruppo Fondiaria, which used Internix technology to port its Unix line of business applications to Windows.