Thursday, 15 April 2010

Interoperability and the Way of the Penguin

Recently I've been tasked by a client to look into alternatives to Microsoft supplied products. Why I hear you ask? Simple - while 2003 Small Business Server was a real winner for this client, 2008 SBS has been an unmitigated disaster. A previous IT provider installed it and then left it unmanaged for quite a while. Even though I have subsequently re-installed the system in accordance with Microsoft best practice, we're still having periodic problems. For exmaple, about every 12 days, Active Directory, DNS, Exchange and IIS stop talking to one another. I'm yet to find the precise cause of this and I've just updated this system with all recent updates etc as required. The client's 2003 SBS server was exceptionally stable. No problems, no failures nothing. It ran beautifully for several years and experienced almost no issues at all.

So on to the new task - they've learnt about GNU/Linux from a friend. This friend gave bugger all details but enough to hook them in. I have no problem with this - I am a big proponent of Linux and use it extensively. But, and here's the BUT! - they use systems that are very specific to Windows. The industry software they have runs only on Windows and only in a 32 bit operating system environment. In fact, it only runs properly on Windows XP - forget Vista and 7. So how to make this all work? I've played with Wine, tried using Sun VirtualBox (which is an excellent product) and still we're not getting the results the client wants. Meanwhile, their server is chugging along happily but they've lost all faith in it and in Microsoft.

While Linux is able to provide a stable operating system, good mail capabilities etc, the lack of ability to provide their key software to each user is a deal breaker. Also the whole file sharing thing isn't working out as I expected. With the client using MYOB for various accounting activities I've encountered some problems with it's access of it's files using Samba to share them. I really want to get this to work, but I'm realistic enough to realise that Linux can't be all things for all people - just like Microsoft's products can't either! And in terms of interoperability, I don't know which end is causing the main problems, but I suspect the closed nature of Microsoft's products is a large part of that. At any rate, I'll keep plugging away with it and see what happens. The good news is the client loves OpenSuSE's looks and handling and I don't have to worry about viruses and malware. Ahh so sweet!

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