Your CIO walks into your office and says, "We're migrating to Windows NT. Get rid of Banyan VINES ASAP!" What could cause such an adamant demand? To answer that question, let's look at the big picture.
Since 1984, VINES administrators have had an enterprise-class directory service, StreetTalk. It was the first real directory service, supports a large number of users, and provides good performance and simplified management. Even today, many people consider StreetTalk the best directory service available. It has network-wide resources, distributed management, and directory synchronization, and you can integrate it with the VINES enterprise messaging system and with third-party software.
All these features mean that StreetTalk is the reason many of the world's top 1000 companies are Banyan customers today. In fact, I recently spoke at the Banyan Enterprise Network Association user conference and met many VINES administrators. The smallest organization represented at the conference had 1500 users connected with StreetTalk.
So why would a CIO want to abandon VINES? Unfortunately, despite StreetTalk's advantages, VINES suffers from having low market share. Marketing pie charts for network operating systems (NOSs) often don't even give VINES it's own category but relegate it to the "Other" category. Like Novell NetWare, Banyan VINES never succeeded as an application server, leaving that market segment open to NT.
Because of this situation, the administrators at that Banyan user conference wanted me to be an advocate for StreetTalk for Windows NT (ST4NT). They were afraid that Banyan would not promote ST4NT and that it would die on the vine (couldn't resist). Talking to Banyan, I've learned that for customers who are committed to VINES, Banyan will continue to enhance its core product. However, the majority of Banyan's customers have already committed to moving to NT. Banyan's goal is to keep existing customers by encouraging them to use ST4NT and Intelligent Messaging for NT (IM4NT) to migrate to NT. These products will ease migration and let Banyan customers keep the best parts of their current environment: StreetTalk and IM.
In addition, Banyan is committed to supporting Internet standards and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) to keep its customers communicating with all other major NOS directory systems, including NT 5.0 Active Directory (AD). Figure 1, page 152, illustrates LDAP's relationship with directory systems. Unfortunately, LDAP is the lowest common denominator among directory services and does not support replication, synchronization, and authentication. The native directory systems will perform these services.
So your CIO has good reasons for ordering you to migrate from VINES to NT, and Banyan is offering ways to make the move easy. But do you want to go directly to NT 4.0 or wait for NT 5.0?
The answer is not easy. Large organizations consider NT 4.0's domain-based directory a weakness. The trust relationships are complex, and the Security
Accounts Manager (SAM) database is not extendible. However, AD in NT 5.0 addresses these limitations. It allows domain hierarchies, eliminates trusts, and supports LDAP, which lets AD communicate with other directory systems such as StreetTalk.
Microsoft is encouraging its third-party partners to support AD by using Microsoft's API, the Active Directory Service Interfaces. ADSI is an alternative to the LDAP APIs. One advantage of ADSI over LDAP is that ADSI supports Visual Basic (VB), Perl, Rexx, FastLane FINAL, Java, and C/C++. LDAP supports only C/C++. And ADSI will be the technology that Microsoft uses to make BackOffice applications AD aware.
Is AD better than StreetTalk for NT? Coincidentally or not, Jim Allchin, Microsoft's Senior VP of the NT division, was involved in the creation of StreetTalk. Would he dare release a directory system that is inferior to one he helped create in 1984? AD contains several features that compare to StreetTalk. For instance, Screen 1 shows a sample of how an NT 5.0 user will be able find someone in a company directory. This AD feature is similar to StreetTalk's company directory features, which you access by pressing F2. (For details, see Steve Boyce's sidebar, "Comparing StreetTalk for NT with Active Directory," page 154.)
Should you wait for NT 5.0 or migrate now? NT 5.0's AD goes a long way toward mapping more closely to StreetTalk's current functionality. However, I doubt that Exchange and other BackOffice applications will be fully AD aware by the time Microsoft releases NT 5.0 in the second quarter of 1998 (or later). In addition, NT 5.0 won't make VINES-to-NT migration any easier than it is today. With all these factors involved, the real question is whether you can wait to migrate until 1999 when NT 5.0 and its applications will be mature.
Now that you understand why the CIO insists on migrating to NT, you face a very difficult decision. Let's explore whether you will want to defy the CIO and stick with VINES only, add NT to an existing VINES network, use StreetTalk to migrate to NT, or move entirely to NT. Then, I'll lay out a road map to help you start your migration if you decide to go with NT.
Option #1:Choosing a VINES-only strategy. When you compare NT and VINES, NT dominates in almost every category, including third-party solutions and support, hardware support, and market share. You can argue that, out of the box, VINES has more functionality than NT Server has, but when you add the functionality available through third-party NT solutions, the scale tips toward NT.
VINES customers include many large organizations that depend on StreetTalk, but VINES has little opportunity to grow outside its existing customer base. So if you decide to stay with only VINES, you will be sitting on a shrinking island.
Option #2:Adding NT to VINES. If you want to add NT to your existing VINES network, how do you get NT and VINES to work together? Today, you can get native VINES IP support for BackOffice's NT Server, SNA Server, SQL Server, and Exchange Server. Microsoft plans to add VINES IP support for Systems Management Server (SMS). In addition, for Windows 95 and NT Workstation, you can get a VINES client redirector that allows a single logon to VINES and NT networks.
On the VINES side, Banyan will support LDAP; ADSI; and Internet standards, including Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP), Domain Name System (DNS), and Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3). This support means you can connect StreetTalk to NT's AD, and IM will be able to work with Exchange.
Option # 3:Migrating to NT with StreetTalk for NT. To migrate to NT, many VINES administrators favor using ST4NT for their directory services and IM4NT for their email. ST4NT replaces NT's networking services and provides traditional StreetTalk-based directory services and interoperability on an NT platform. IM4NT is an NT port of the VINES email system.
One major benefit to this migration strategy is that it requires no changes at the client level. In addition, users don't have to relearn email or StreetTalk-enabled applications. In the sidebar "StreetTalk for NT," page 155, Mark Cooper explains in detail why using ST4NT is a good migration strategy.
Option #4:Total Migration. A total migration consists of replacing all VINES servers with NT servers and migrating email from VINES IM3 to Exchange. Although end users will no longer be able to get a company directory by pressing F2, most of IM3's current functionality maps well to the new environment.
Banyan administrators consider migrating from StreetTalk to NT's domain structure a downgrade. VINES functionality doesn't map straight across. In addition, a typical Banyan site has thousands of users. These factors make a total migration difficult, but not impossible.
Migration Roadmap: Seven Steps
Once you've decided to migrate and selected your approach, you need to plan your migration. A Banyan-to-NT migration project includes the following seven steps.
STEP 1: Assess the NT infrastructure. Assessing the NT infrastructure means determining how much and what kind of hardware and software you need to buy to run an NT environment successfully. Let's start with hardware.
If you're using Pentium-class servers, you can probably upgrade them for use as NT servers. Unfortunately, many VINES shops are running on hundreds of 286s with built-in routing. Migrating to NT offers an opportunity to reduce the number of servers you need, but migrating also means upgrading hardware to current NT server and network standards.
You also need to plan for additional servers as Primary Domain Controllers (PDCs) and Backup Domain Controllers (BDCs). Information about how to determine the number of domain controllers is in Ed Tittel and Mary Madden's August 1996 article, "PDCs, BDCs, and Availability."
Microsoft is recommending a minimum configuration of a Pentium-class machine with 32MB of RAM for all future workstation purchases. With less RAM, the Exchange and Outlook email clients don't run well.
What do you do if your clients aren't up to these specs? Well, you can buy new PCs, or you can consider a multiuser NT solution. Microsoft's Windows-based Terminal Server (formerly code-named Hydra) is a clear indication of Microsoft's support for using old PC hardware (e.g., 386 and 486 models) as terminals for running the latest (and biggest) 32-bit software from a multiuser NT server. This alternative can save a lot of money in both hardware upgrades and administration costs. For information about such thin client solutions, see my September 1997 article, "Thin Is In," and for a case study of a company that is very successfully reusing legacy hardware, see Tom Greer, "UARCO Gets Thin," November 1997.
On the software side, you need to buy a copy of NT Server for each server machine you install. You also need to purchase one or more copies of Exchange Server and a client access license (CAL) for each user of Exchange and of NT's file and print services. For a multiuser solution, you need Terminal Server or a third-party solution such as Citrix WinFrame (http: //www.citrix.com).
STEP 2: Bring systems up to required specifications. Will you want to do the migration yourself or hire an experienced solutions provider? Unless you have a lot of NT experts on staff, hire some outside professionals with good references to help in
the migration. "An experienced consultant can answer questions you haven't even thought of," said Larry Hersh, Worldwide Manager of NT Migration Services for Digital Equipment.
Make sure the contractor is comfortable with having your staff hang around and learn so that your personnel can maintain the systems after the contractor leaves. This technology transfer is one of the most important aspects of hiring a good consultant.
Microsoft has also authorized six companies to perform large-scale VINES-to-NT migrations. These companies are Digital Equipment, Trellis, EDS, Vanstar, Wang, and Entex (for contact information for these companies, see the contact box).
STEP 3: Plan the migration. A successful migration involves a lot of planning, and you have to do all the work in a precise manner and order. Fortunately, three tools can help you plan your migration project: Lightspeed's VINES Migration Tool (VMT), FastLane Technologies' Flyte, and Querisoft's DirectMigrate are designed specifically for full VINES-to-NT migrations. These products let you map VINES objects to their corresponding NT objects. This mapping will determine how your NT system will look after migration. Table 1, page 158, presents a feature comparison of these products, and the sidebar, "Migration Case Study: Colorado Department of Revenue," illustrates one migration that used Lightspeed VMT. (Note that a migration tool will not design your domain structure, plan your network configuration, or help you size your servers. The larger the installation, the more up-front planning you need to do.)
STEP 4: Clean up the VINES and pilot test the migration. Garbage-in, garbage-out. That maxim is certainly true in a VINES-to-NT migration. You can prevent problems by cleaning up your directories and running a pilot test. Preparing for migration is your opportunity to clean up the VINES directory and eliminate such garbage as the accounts of long-gone employees. Flyte has several reports and tools to help clean up an existing VINES environment (see the sidebar, "Airforce Takes Flyte"). Both VMT and Flyte let you do pilot migrations.
STEP 5: Migrate. Migration can be time consuming and complex. Both VMT and Flyte let you migrate your users by group.
If you migrate a 2000-member company over a weekend, you will face a training disaster on Monday morning. Wisdom dictates migrating a department at a time. You also need the capability to undo anything you've done and to create a report at each step of the migration.
These needs determine how much of the migration you can automate with off-the-shelf migration tools. Typically, a tool will complete 80 percent of the migration, leaving 20 percent to you for customization. Because Flyte is based on a scripting language, if Flyte is your migration tool, you can build custom scripts with its scripting language to handle specific problems.
STEP 6: Train users. Typical user training will involve a total of a half-day for learning about the new desktop, logging on to the network, and using an Exchange client. A Help desk person will need about 2 days of training on end user applications and Exchange administration. An NT systems administrator will need about 2 weeks to 4 weeks of training to learn NT Server administration, Exchange administration, and network infrastructure. (Important: an administrator needs to learn TCP/IP, which is different from VINES IP.) Finally, you will need to train your migration team to use any migration tools you deploy.
STEP 7: Clean up unique situations. You can't automate everything. You'll need to do some manual configurations and setup.
The ideal situation is to find the majority of your problems in step 4 and eliminate them before you migrate. Still, you may find invalid ARL entries that have been flagged and reported but that you need to clean up manually. For example, suppose the migration utility finds the name mark@winntmag@duke and can't determine whether that name identifies a list, a group, or a user. The utility will flag and report this entry, but you will have to fix it manually.
So Why Migrate?
The market pressure to move to NT is pretty overwhelming. Many people have a real fear that Banyan won't be around much longer. I've even heard a rumor that Microsoft would purchase Banyan and speed up migration to NT. But Banyan is encouraging customers to migrate to NT without any help from Microsoft, so why should Microsoft buy Banyan?
Migrations are never easy, but the Banyan-to-NT migration is particularly difficult. Fortunately, the steps I've outlined in this article, the migration products that are available, and service organizations can help you make the move. The important thing is to keep your job and your sanity. Now you have the information you need to develop a plan that any reasonable CIO will accept.