TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Linux vs. Windows: TCO Comparison

Linux vs. Windows: TCO Comparison

Laura DiDio (
Sat, 20 Aug 2005 12:35:24 -0500

Laura DiDio,

With no apologies to the partisans and protagonists on either side of
the Linux-versus-Windows debate: It's not an either-or, all-or-nothing

There are technical and business advantages and disadvantages for both
operating-system environments. Neither server system will consume the
other. Both will coexist. The big question currently confronting
corporate users is whether harmonious heterogeneity is possible.

It had better be. If it is not forthcoming, everyone -- corporate end
users and vendors alike -- stands to lose.

Here's where things stand now: Microsoft's Windows commands 65 to 70
percent of the server operating system market, while the Linux share
stands at 15 to 20 percent. Currently, Linux server shipments
represent the fastest-growing segment of the market.

No Basis for Mass Switch

Yankee Group recently completed an extensive total cost of ownership
(TCO) comparison report in which it polled 500 North American
corporations on their use of Windows and Linux. The high-level
findings show that there is no universal clear-cut TCO basis to compel
the corporate masses to do a wholesale switch from Windows to Linux as
there is for a migration from Unix to Linux. And there is no
indication that users are replacing Windows with Linux.

The majority of wholesale defections to Linux continues to come at the
expense of midrange Unix installations, although many organizations
are installing Linux as an OS that is complementary to existing
Windows servers. Nearly two-thirds of Windows environments now have
Linux or some other open-source distribution present in their
environments. This trend will continue.

The report also indicates that businesses continue to expand the ways
they use Linux. More than 50 percent of corporations now use Linux as
multipurpose servers to perform several functions, including serving
Web pages, e-mail and applications.

But, contrary to what the headlines would have us believe, the biggest
threat to Microsoft's continued dominance, at present, is not
Linux. It is older versions of Windows. The biggest threat to Linux is
not Microsoft, but rather integration and interoperability issues
among the various Linux and open-source distributions and
applications. The lack of enterprise-level application support and
documentation for the aforementioned software packages also is an

Energy and Enthusiasm

Pragmatism -- not misguided passion -- should decide whether Linux,
Windows, Unix or any combination of the three is the best solution for
an individual organization.

Don't get me wrong. I applaud the passion of the software developers
and I.T. administrators who pour their time, effort, energy and
enthusiasm into their work. But I abhor it when the passion
disintegrates into mudslinging and counterproductive internecine
warfare. That does not help the business or any of the corporation's
end users.

To put it simply, both Windows and Linux have much to recommend
them. Largely, server operating systems have been commoditized. A
corporation's TCO and ROI are less factors of the underlying Linux or
Windows operating systems than they are of the applications and
services that support the server platforms.

The most startling revelation coming out of the report was the fact
that more than 50 percent of the respondents said they had performed a
thorough TCO analysis. But when asked to calculate their specific
Linux and Windows capital expenditure and maintenance costs, 75
percent, on average, could not answer explicit questions about their
own environments.

Crucial, Basic TCO Information

Businesses lack basic, crucial TCO information, such as the cost of a
Linux or Windows server upgrade and what they are spending on network
management, third-party applications, tools, utilities, ongoing
maintenance, security, systems downtime, calls to the help desk and
hardware and software breaks and fixes.

The absence of such crucial financial information makes it difficult
for corporations to make informed purchasing decisions and heightens
risks when choosing technologies that are ill-suited to their business

It is clear that Linux servers, spurred by support from Dell,
Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle, Red Hat and others, are legitimate
contenders in the corporate enterprise. But Linux desktops have yet to
make a perceptible impact or gain traction in mainstream enterprise

It also is clear that Microsoft recognizes the Linux challenge posed
by its old and new foes. The company has responded positively and
aggressively to meet the challenge. Ironically, Linux has had a
positive impact on Windows. Faced with its fiercest competitor in the
past decade, Microsoft responded with a series of aggressive moves.

Competition creates a win-win situation for everyone. Corporate
customers get better products, services and more competitive pricing
as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and the various Linux distributors
compete for their business. Rival vendors improve the inherent
performance, reliability, security and scalability of their core

Maximizing Network Potential

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all operating system that is
right for every scenario in every environment. Depending on a
corporation's business needs, current and planned technology
infrastructure, and capital-expenditure budgets, either Windows, Linux
or some combination of the two might best suit the firm's technology
needs, budget and business goals.

But the brand name is less important than the overarching issues
associated with whether corporate I.T. managers, CTOs and CIOs can
answer specific questions about the cost and efficiency of their
existing network infrastructure and the reasons for the relative
strengths and weaknesses.

If you do not know what is on your network, if you cannot at least
estimate the hourly, monthly or yearly cost of downtime, if you do not
know how long it takes to recover from a security outage, if you
cannot answer questions about the extent of your company's license
compliance, then you cannot truly evaluate whether Linux, Windows or
Unix is right for your business.

Chances are, if you cannot answer most or all of those questions, it
does not matter what operating system you have because ignorance of
the core TCO tenets means that your business is not getting the most
out of its networks.

It is incumbent on individual organizations to determine which
operating system -- or combination thereof -- best suits their firm's
technology needs, budgets and business goals. With proper planning,
training and due diligence, Linux, Windows or Unix can provide the
best TCO and fastest ROI. Companies that fail to perform due diligence
are buying blind and will almost surely suffer the consequences.

Laura DiDio is a Research Fellow at Yankee Group, a Boston-based
consultancy. She has covered operating systems and related security
issues for 18 years as an analyst, reporter and editor.

Copyright 2005 NewsFactor Network, Inc.

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