Stung by Microsoft's charges that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Linux was higher than Windows, open source software interests sought this week to refute the charges in a survey of IT organizations that lists various developments--many of them new--in which Linux undercuts Windows in price and management complexity.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

February 14, 2006

3 Min Read

Stung by Microsoft's charges that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Linux was higher than Windows, open source software interests sought this week to refute the charges in a survey of IT organizations that lists various developments--many of them new--in which Linux undercuts Windows in price and management complexity.

A report released Monday, sponsored by Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and member firm Levanta, said earlier Linux management "pains" no longer exist and IT operations running Linux often spend less time and money running Linux than Windows. The study was prepared by Enterprise Management Associates, which surveyed several thousand IT organizations by telephone and conducted interviews with CIOs and MIS directors at a wide variety of large Linux and mixed-software installations.

"The study wasn't intended to be a direct head-to-head comparison between Linux and Windows management," said Levanta's director of marketing, David Dennis, in an email interview Tuesday. "EMA's research determined that Linux management has come a very long way in a very short period of time. It now presents another set of data so a more even-handed debate can occur."

Dennis maintains that Linux has recently pulled ahead of Windows in several areas including security, problem resolution and management, and support. Noting that a Windows weak spot has been security issues illustrated by its frequency of patching, the 17-page report noted that most Linux administrators with sophisticated tools can provision a system in less than one hour.

"When's the last time you heard of a massive patch release from Linux that was going to halt IT shops in their tracks for inordinate amounts of time," asked Dennis? "That's exactly the burden that Windows is placing on IT shops this week."

"Whereas the 200 Linux shops that EMA talked to in its study take, on average, five minutes total per week, per server managing Linux systems -- including patch management, system migration and repurposing, security management, and virus/spyware protection -- 90 percent of the respondents indicated that the time and effort required for managing Linux servers is the same or less. While Microsoft has been criticized for being lax in its security provisioning, the software colossus has moved aggressively in recent months to fix the problem. Indeed, since its initial criticism of open source software -- Microsoft's CEO once called open source software "a cancer" -- Microsoft has mellowed on the subject, hiring open source experts and working with mixed software installations.

Dennis said the EMS study found that enterprises with both Linux and Windows reported that 88 percent of them spent less effort in managing and supporting Linux while 97 percent said, worst case, it took the same amount of time to manage installations with both operating systems.

As for problem resolution, more than 60 percent of the IT installation personnel interviewed said they diagnose and repair problems in Linux environments in less than 30 minutes -- eight times faster than the industry average.

Dennis said FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) attacks on open source software have been particularly effective on the SMB market. He added that larger data center administrators are better able to sort through software issues. "Microsoft never did own the enterprise data center," he said. "IBM, HP, and Sun could make a better claim there."

"But Microsoft is very much the 800-pound gorilla in the SME market. The SME market is particularly vulnerable because they're usually more risk averse and they have less experience with Linux."

The EMA report indicated that Windows more than held its own versus Linux in some areas. Storage management issues for both operating systems were essentially the same for both, and salaries for administrators with combined Windows and Linux experience were similar.

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