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Survey: Moving From Windows To Linux Isn't Cheap

A Yankee Group study of IT administrators and C-level execs says making the move is cost prohibitive for large companies.
For years, Linux advocates have touted the open-source operating system as a less-expensive, more-reliable alternative to Unix and Windows running on x86-based, or industry-standard, servers. Not so fast, says the Yankee Group.

Based on survey results the consulting and analyst firm released Monday, Linux's technical merits are "equivalent but not superior" to Unix and Windows Server 2003. And, though the Linux kernel is essentially free, Yankee Group research indicates that moving from Windows to Linux is "cost prohibitive" for large companies.

The Yankee Group says its survey results come from 1,000 IT administrators and C-level executives worldwide. Of the 300 large companies--those with 10,000 or more users--that it surveyed, 90% indicated that a significant or total switch from Windows to Linux would be expensive, complex, and time-consuming without delivering any business advantages.

More specifically, the Yankee Group's research indicates that such a switch would be three to four times as expensive and take three times as long to deploy as an upgrade from one version of Windows to another.

Not surprisingly, the research has its skeptics in the open-source community. It's difficult to accurately compare the cost of moving from one version of a server operating system to a new version with the cost of changing server operating systems, says Stuart Cohen, president of the Open Source Development Labs, a global consortium of technology companies dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux.

The argument about cost holds up better when Windows and Linux desktops are compared because Windows has such a dominant position in that market, he says.

Cohen estimates that Linux has 3% of the desktop market. Yankee Group's survey found that Linux desktops won't have much of an impact on Windows' 94% desktop market share before 2006.

In other Linux news, Nikkei Business Publications Asia Ltd. on Sunday reported that Japan, China, and South Korea signed an agreement that the countries will cooperate in standardizing open-source software programs, including Linux.

These countries want open-source technology to deliver features that Windows and Unix don't, particularly in the area of language character recognition, says Cohen, whose group includes Japanese companies Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC. Says Cohen, "They're looking to develop a standard that each of the countries can use to develop new Linux distributions that handle their unique character-based languages."

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter