'Windows cheaper than Linux' claims IDC

Written by Stephen Shankland, Contributor


Research firm IDC has fanned the flames of the Linux v Windows debate by revealing that Microsoft's product is the cheaper of two alternatives to administer. While IDC found Linux to be cheaper for hosting websites, Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system won the price war in four other areas and was less expensive overall. IDC said in the study: "The cost advantages are driven primarily by Windows' significantly lower costs for IT staffing, generally the largest single component of IT costs." The Microsoft-funded study polled 104 US companies and evaluated costs for networked server computers supporting 100 users over a five-year period. The servers were used for tasks ranging from sharing files, running protective firewall software, and sending print jobs to printers - typically jobs run on lower-end servers where Linux and Windows are most widely used. The biggest difference was in security servers, where Linux systems cost $91,000 over five years and Windows systems cost $70,000, IDC said. Next came print jobs, where a Linux server cost $107,000 over five years and a Windows server cost $87,000. In file sharing, Linux cost $114,000 to Windows' $99,000. In website jobs, Linux was less expensive at $31,000 to Windows' $32,000. The findings reinforce a long-held argument by Microsoft that its systems don't cost as much to run as Linux does. These administration costs account for the vast majority of the overall ownership cost - 62 per cent, according to IDC - dwarfing differences in the initial software costs. Linux, unlike Windows, is available for free from companies such as Red Hat, which also sell versions with manuals, technical support and other features. But a low initial price tag is not the deciding factor, IDC said. Linux's price has been influential, however. For one thing, it spurred Microsoft to sell a new lower-priced Web Server edition of the next version of Windows, .Net Server 2003 due in April. For another thing, Linux has pressured companies such as Sun Microsystems to sell Unix servers. And Microsoft acknowledges its own prices have been an issue in cash-strapped countries such as Namibia. Software acquisition costs are 4.6 per cent of the overall server costs over five years, and hardware acquisition is 4.4 per cent, IDC said. Much more significant is the cost of unexpected computer downtime, when companies have to spend time rebooting and reconfiguring systems and the people who need to use the servers are idle. IDC expects the overall cost gap between Linux and Windows to shrink as Linux becomes more widespread, administrators grow more familiar with it, and management software supports it better. Stephen Shankland writes for News.com
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