Windows pulls the Unix plug

A gap in Linux skills flipped the switch in Windows' favor, prompting a Malaysian tools manufacturer to choose the latter.

The lack of expertise in the Linux operating system has led an industrial tools maker to opt for Windows.

Malaysia-based Hard Metal Knives managing director Tan Lip Kee told ZDNet Asia in a telephone interview that two years ago, the company had planned to migrate the Oracle database, which ran on Unix, to Linux. He did not reveal which Unix flavor the company was using.

But the plan didn't work out. "We weren't confident of the migration, and faced several problems," he said.

In particular, Tan's systems started crashing during the pilot project. His IT team went through several software re-installations over two weeks to revolve the issues.

The company subsequently opted for Windows Server 2003, together with SQL Server 2005.

The lack of Linux drivers for his hardware did not help to make migration easier either. Tan said there were also problems trying to find the documentation for the Linux distribution he was using.

"We found documentation for other versions but not the one that we wanted," Tan said. Without the proper documentation, the deployment process became even more difficult as the IT team had to work on a "trial-and error" basis to resolve problems, he added.

After the evaluation period, Hard Metal Knives scrapped the idea of migrating to the Linux. "After consulting with our IT staff, we felt uncomfortable and did not have the confidence to migrate to the Linux platform," he said.

"Assuming we did migrate to Linux, we were uncertain if these and other problems would crop up three months or six months down the road," he said, noting that this was a risk the company did not want to take, as its core business processes are linked to its IT systems.

Yap Boon Leong, business development director of Linux technology provider Resolvo Systems, however, said online documentation is available for major Linux distributions.

Oracle also has a Linux Enterprise Applications Center, which was set up last year in Singapore to provide porting, tuning and testing applications on the Linux platform for Asia-Pacific customers. According to an Oracle spokesperson, the center's services are free for its customers.

But Tan said Hard Metal Knives was using an unsupported version of Linux for the pilot migration project.

"Using a supported version of Linux with annual subscription fees will just erode any cost savings, which is the primary objective of our interest on Linux. The annual subscription fees really add up over the years. On Microsoft, we have a clear view of the investment required, as I only have to pay once for the licenses," he said.

Tan noted that a lot of businesses consider Linux due to the perceived lower cost. "From our experience, that is not necessarily true as the complexity will result in lost productivity, delay in project implementations, and in many cases, the need to engage costlier external support," he added.

"A business like ours needs a manageable and cost effective platform to run our business. I would strongly urge all businesses considering Linux to consider their own capabilities and to consider the actual cost of running a Linux infrastructure," Tan explained.

See through windows
Other than Windows Server 2003, Hard Metal Knives also went for Microsoft's SharePoint Server to facilitate collaboration among its 60 IT users, Tan said. He soon found that it was not all hunky dory, as there were some integration problems between the business intelligence features in SQL Server 2005 and SharePoint.

Tan said the company has not approached Microsoft directly yet, choosing to work with a local systems integrator to resolve the ongoing issues.

On the security concerns that he might have by moving from Unix to Windows, Tan said since his systems are not exposed to the Internet, security risks are minimal. Moreover, the company does not allow staff to telecommute, and that reduces the security risk of providing workers with remote access, he said.

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