Grep FOSSBiz Versora

Posted by dcparris on Jul 21, 2006 6:11 AM EDT
LXer - Grep FOSSBiz; By DC Parris
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LXer Feature: 21-Jul-2006

LXer's Don Parris got together with Versora, Inc.'s CEO, Mike Sheffey, Chief Software Architect, Nick Lassonde, and Vice-President of Marketing, Ray George to discuss Versora's role in helping businesses migrate from Windows to GNU/Linux.

grep fossbiz Versora, Inc.

Very few companies deal exclusively with Free and Open Source Software. Today I ran grep against the FOSSBiz file for Versora, Inc. Although a small company, Versora is definitely getting a foothold in the desktop migration arena. While we applaud Versora's efforts at helping organizations migrate from a restrictive, non-free platform, we would encourage them to offer their desktop migration software under a libre license. Doing so would serve to strengthen their position in the Free and Open Source Software marketplace.

That said, IT managers need to be aware that there are companies like Versora, who have the expertise and tools to help them migrate to the GNU/Linux platform in a cost-effective way. With that in mind, LXer got together with Versora's CEO, Mike Sheffey, Chief Software Architect, Nick Lassonde, and Vice-President of Marketing, Ray George to discuss Versora's role in helping businesses migrate from Windows to GNU/Linux.

Grep Returns...

How long has Versora been in business?

Versora, Inc. (based in Santa Barbara, California) was co-founded in 2004 by Michael Sheffey, Jon Walker and Nick Lassonde. All three gentleman came from Miramar Systems (acquired by Computer Associates in 2004) where Mr. Walker was the chief software architect for Desktop DNA, a Windows to Windows desktop migration software tool that has been deployed to over 20 million computers worldwide.

Versora was formed out of a conviction that mixed heterogeneous computing environments (Windows and Linux) would replace Windows-only platforms and that, as the trend gained momentum, organizations would need a painless and seamless path to migrate to Linux on the desktop and/or data center. With over 20 years combined management, development and sales experience in the migration software industry, the transition for Mr. Sheffey and Mr. Walker was a natural next-step.

What drove Versora to focus on migration services? Isn't the Windows to GNU/Linux migration business kind of an uphill battle?

It definitely is at this point. Until the "Year of the Linux Desktop" actually materializes beyond media hype, focusing strictly on Windows to Linux desktop migrations will be very difficult as the sole focus of Versora. Fortunately, it's not. We're focused more on a multi-platform approach. Versora offers Windows to Linux desktop as well as Windows to Windows desktop migration products. So, if an organization is all Windows, all Linux, or a mixture of both - we can support them with desktop migrations (data, system settings, application settings).

That being said, there is a lot of interest in open source alternatives to Windows in many verticals and sectors. Members of the Versora team were on the forefront of the Windows to Windows migration space and see parallels in how the need for migration solutions is evolving in the Windows to Linux space. There are a lot of issues involved in moving from a Windows based world to a Linux based one. We understand that one major productivity barrier in the move from Windows to Linux is the time and effort required in moving existing data. Providing tools that make this part of the transition easy improves the overall story.

How many employees do you currently have?

We currently have five employees in addition to occasional contract positions.

Can you give me an idea how your sales and services revenue has grown since you've been in business?

We currently generate the bulk of our revenue in the end user space which has evolved out of relationships with distros focused on that market (Linspire, Xandros, Turbolinux). Corporations are still kicking the tires so to speak with respect to large scale desktop replacement but as companies like Novell commit significant development and marketing resources to improving the desktop offerings, we think that the momentum within the business sector will continue to build.

Is Versora actually seeing any interest in Windows to GNU/Linux migrations on the desktop? If so, in what industries?

We are seeing interest by international governments, in Asia for example, to have open source desktop alternatives. We view this as a great opportunity.

Versora offers migration services in the areas of desktops, databases, servers, and collaboration. Where do you see the biggest Windows to GNU/Linux migrations occurring?

In surveying the migration opportunities, we came to the conclusion that our technology and expertise provided the most unique value in the desktop migration space so this is where we have focused our energies. There are migration opportunities in the database and server arena but there are many good vendor based or open source solutions.

How many Windows to GNU/Linux migrations has Versora helped complete over the course of the last year?

We would put this number in the thousands rather than millions in terms of desktop migrations, mainly because corporations that are considering moves are still in the early pilot and investigation stages. We do predict that there will be a 'Year of the Linux Desktop' but the 64 dollar question is still 'What year?'.

How many units of your automated migration software packages have you sold over the course of the last year? Which is the biggest seller?

We are focused on our desktop product which provides the most unique value in the marketplace. Our greatest sales successes for Progression Desktop have been through our partners.

Which GNU/Linux distribution do you wind up working with the most?

We have had the best response with distros where we have distribution deals: Linspire, Xandros, TurboLinux. We have had a lot of interest in Ubuntu also which we announced support for earlier this year.

There has been good buzz in the marketplace for SLED 10 and we have been working with Novell to optimize the user experience on that platform.

What is the most common challenge Versora staff encounter during migrations? What should businesses and other organizations interested in migrating from Windows to GNU/Linux be aware of

Planning is the most important step in a large-scale desktop migration. The four basic steps to planning a migration are choosing a Linux distribution, taking an application inventory, developing a migration strategy and identifying user groups. When choosing a Linux distribution, be sure to find out which applications that distro supports and the maintenance and support options available for it. Other selection criteria include frequency of updates, ease of use and cost. Regarding taking an application inventory, list all applications used in each department on a spreadsheet. Then categorize them, for example, as Windows only, runs on both Windows and Linux, Linux equivalent, or runs in an emulator. After that is complete, develop an app strategy. What do you want to do with Windows-only applications? Port the app? Rewrite the app? Drop the app? Run the Windows apps through a thin client or terminal services? Finally, determine how the migration is going to go down. Rip and replace? Dual-boot? Incremental migration (moving applications to open source first on Windows, easing some of the pain of migration - with pure Linux as the next step)?

You also need to plan how to deal with the hardware. Wipe and reload or new hardware? Versora's Progression Desktop handles both scenarios. Lastly, you need to plan how to handle users. Consider migrating by departments or user groups. Get user feedback throughout the whole planning process. Take time to understand their expectations. If you don't get user buy-in at the outset, it can cause major pains later.

Footnotes, Links, etc.

» Read more about: Story Type: Interview, LXer Features; Groups: Community, Linspire, Linux, SUSE, Ubuntu, Xandros

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