Battle continues over true cost of Linux

Battle continues over true cost of Linux

Summary: An analyst firm claims that Windows offers equal or better TCO than Linux, but open source companies say the survey has ignored some of the advantages of Linux


The majority of enterprises deploying Microsoft Windows Server 2003 believe it is as good, if not better, than Linux in terms of quality, performance and reliability, according to a survey published this week.

But various open source companies disagree, and claim there are various areas where Linux is superior to Windows.

Laura DiDio, an analyst at the Yankee Group who carried out the survey, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it is a myth that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for Linux is lower than that for Windows. "Over the past three years people have said 'Linux is so much cheaper than Windows'," said DiDio. "In some instances this will be true, but as a general blanket statement you cannot say that."

She said there is a significant cost associated with maintaining and supporting Linux, and for migrating third party applications to Linux.

The Linux-Windows 2005 TCO Comparison Survey, found that network administrators can restore a Windows server 30 percent faster than a Linux server. But DiDio said that in the "overwhelming majority of cases" this was not caused by the core Linux operating system, but by insufficient documentation.

It tends to be easier to find security information on Windows than on Linux, she said, as this information can be found in the same place.

"There is a fractured community around Linux," said DiDio. "One of the problems you have with [security] attacks is that there are very few aggregate sites where all the known vulnerabilities are listed across different platforms and applications. Microsoft has a better infrastructure for that."

The survey asked respondents to evaluate both Linux and Windows against a number of criteria, on a scale of one to ten. Overall, Linux servers scored higher for security than Windows servers, according to the survey, with Linux scoring 8.3 out of 10 and Windows Server 2003 scoring 7.6. This is a significant improvement on last year's score, said DiDio.

"Last year we gave Microsoft a big, big black eye in security," said DiDio. "Last year they scored three or four out of 10, this year they scored 7.6."

But she said the assumption that Linux is more secure than Windows can lead to problems. "The biggest security threat facing the Linux environment is complacency — the community has focused too much attention on being more secure than Windows," said DiDio.

But Eddie Bleasdale, the director of open source consultancy Netproject, said the report does not sufficiently consider the importance of desktop security.

"The main concern is the lack of security if Microsoft is on the desktop," said Bleasdale. "These security problems have resulted in the growth of e-business and e-government halting."

"There are a growing number of initiatives on secure messaging. Secure messaging requires secure end to end computing — including having a trusted desktop."

DiDio admitted that Windows desktops are less secure than Linux, but claimed that Windows offers better patching. "Certainly Windows desktops are more porous and more vulnerable," said DiDio. "We found that Windows desktops had an average rating of 6.9 compared with a rating of well over eight for Linux. But what happens if there is an attack and no patch available [for Linux]?"

Michael Meskes, the managing director of open source services company Credativ, said the report does not sufficiently consider the problems associated in migrating from one version of Windows to another.

"In calculating TCO, the protection of investment is often not sufficiently considered," said Meskes. "To use new technologies with Windows, you sometimes need to swap the complete system. That leads to the need to set up a server from scratch, migrate data, and individual applications may no longer work."

"For example, if you want to attach USB devices to a Windows NT server, as USB is not supported on a Windows NT server the whole operating system must be swapped. With Linux you only have to update the kernel, which would take an expert about 15 minutes."

DiDio agreed that some components of a Windows migration may take longer, but that there are other disadvantages to Linux, such as the limited number of third party applications that have been certified on Linux, which means that during a Linux migration a customer may need to spend extra time working out interoperability issues.

Mandrakesoft cofounder Gael Duval agreed that Linux has a lower minimal cost than Windows, but the overall TCO depends on what applications and services you are paying for.

"Well-informed IT services are aware of the fact that they can have Linux run for a cost near zero, including software acquisition, deployment and maintenance," said Duval. "On the other hand, starting from this zero, you have a large range of offerings that can make Linux' TCO higher. On the other hand, the Windows TCO can't be lowered below the cost of the software, unless you enter into some piracy."

The total cost of Linux or Windows is dependent on the environment, agreed DiDio. She said that during this survey she came across a software vendor that saved $3.5m in licensing fees by moving from Microsoft SQL Server running on Windows to an open source database running on Linux. But, they were only able to make these cost savings as they were not adding third party tools, said DiDio.

In contrast, a law firm involved in the survey did a TCO analysis to decide whether to migrate from a predominantly Windows environment to Linux and found that as certain legal applications were not available on Linux, the costs of migration would be prohibitive.

DiDio has been nicknamed DiDiot by some in the Linux community who claim that she unfairly favours Microsoft. She hit back against this claim on Wednesday, slamming the "extremist fringe of Linux loonies" who she claimed were disrespectful and insulting to those they disagreed with.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • It is ok to dub all these as rubbish as they are truely rubbish and in the sense of 'nonsense'. May I expand on that : applesauce, balderdash, baloney, bilge, bull, claptrap, eyewash, flimflam, garbage, hogwash, hooey, horsefeathers, jazz, piffle, poppycock, rot, tomfoolery, tommyrot, trash.
    Choose your pick.
  • I'd really like to see a report of TCO including the commercial Unix platforms: namely Sun, HP-UX, and AIX. Also, while an application may not have a native Linux version, the app probably runs under Wine, so nothing would need to be ported. TCO is also a bit of a red herring, as the real question is the return on investment (ROI). If screwdriver A costs $1 and its ROI is $4, and screwdriver B costs $2 and its ROI is $25, which is better?
  • "believe" is not the same as "is". The tobacco industries played this line for a long time too. The so called analysis has a lot of wiggle room and heavy use of weasle words.

    I also suspect there is something wrong with the methodology used in the backup/restore.

    In the case of time to restore, the only times I've had to (or heard of) people having to restore a linux based server have usually been when new hardware is purchased and services are to be moved to the new hardware. After I get a server set up, I do a back-up, wipe the HD, and then restore once, just to ensure that the back up data and method are working and documented. That usually takes less than 30 minutes.

    In contrast, most MS-Windows servers I've had the misfortune to observe, need a re-install oftern. This ranges from every few weeks to every few months. The server is usually down (from a user's perspective) all day when the restor is being done. So I'm not sure how the Yankee group was able to fiddle the methodology to make the llinux restor slower.

    Regarding DiDio's whining about criticism, she has earned her poor reputation many times over. If she can't take the heat, then she should stay out of the kitchen.
  • I think most people forget that there really isn't any comparision between Linux and Windoze. They are two totaly different operating systems. Comparing Apples with Bananas usually isn't a true comparison. Linux comes from a UNIX background, which is well known for being a robust operating system. Windows comes from a background of continuous problems and security breaches. Enough said.
  • DiDio complains of being called DiDiot--all apologies but I suppose it's difficult to modify DiDio into "shill".

    Her "independent" study done with the help of Sunbelt Software has been shown here:

    to be yet another MS backdoor hit:

    " "Located in Tampa Bay, Florida, Sunbelt Software is the first and one of the largest providers of "best-of-breed" Windows NT, 2000/2003 utilities, supplying the tools necessary to support a Windows NT/2000 infrastructure. Working in partnership with innovative software developers, Sunbelt Software produces leading edge utilities and provides mainframe quality technical support. Sunbelt Software Inc. is a member of the 2001 Inc. 500 list of America's fastest growing companies. . . .

    "Sunbelt is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner interested in what Windows network administrators need to solve their NT/2000 problems. We are constantly surveying NT/2000 administrators to determine which utilities are most in demand, and we then release best-of-breed solutions, leveraging the Internet as our primary marketing medium. Our client list contains over 90% of the Fortune 1000.""
  • of course msoft admins can restore systems more quickly than linux. They have a lot more practice!
  • Classic Dido quote:

    "We found that Windows desktops had an average rating of 6.9 compared with a rating of well over eight for Linux. But what happens if there is an attack and no patch available [for Linux]?"

    Gee the same thing that happens if there is an attack and no patch available [for Windows]!

  • I must admit to some confusion here - I wasn't aware MS ran a site where you could find every bug in every windows-based application...

    oh, she just meant ones from MS? well, that's more reasonable, but tbh the only reason it is useul is because most of the security vulnerabilities on Windows *are* clustered around MS supplied services, rather than third party packages.... :)

    In any case, where you are more likely to see vulnerability reports is bugtraq, not MS *or* a linux specific site.
  • the issue is not Windows TCO as it is about resource availabilty. The TCO is lower for windows because the available resource pool (more supply and availability thereby lowering fees) and possible learning curve for ms products are lower. However, linux's only draw back is apps. Once critical mass is reached this issue will be a thing of the past. TCO IS much lower for linux because no one can run their apps on it and it thus is used for limited tasks.
  • WHY is this bogus article still running?!? Three months and largely negative responses later (because it deserves them?). ZDUK can do better for the non-Micro$haft community!

    Hey, we know already that ZD $hills for M$, that M$ "TCO comparisons" are really quite laughable and that DiDiot runs around the M$ campus on kneepads and rollerskates.

    To say that she's - to be polite - M$'s "kept woman" is a cosmic understatement. Her ongoing defense of the SCOundrels in Utah and their obscene, M$-funded FUD campaign against Linux is all you need to see.

    Please, ZD, come up with some better headlines than stuff about a non-existent TCO battle. Your own article, "South Korea launches 10,000-school Linux programme ... Citing security concerns, better support and budgetary concerns... " (hello?!?) just buttresses that idea. AND, beyond TCO issues, it illustrates the power of Open Source to better meet domestic needs in this time of Globalization.

    C'mon, guys! You can do it!