Linux may not be cheaper, say top analysts

Corporate customers considering moving their applications from Windows operating systems to Linux may not save money, according to the latest in a string of reports from top analyst companies.

However, because two of these reports have been sponsored by Microsoft, the findings may be mistrusted by some buyers.

The latest report, the only one not paid for by Microsoft, has been published by the heavyweight Gartner Group. It says that moving desktop systems from Windows to Linux only saves money in certain specific situations and is unlikely to be economic for users of the more recent versions of Windows, such as Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Another report, from the recently merged Forrester Research (now incorporating the Giga Group), concluded that developing new portal style applications using Microsoft’s .Net application development and deployment environment is almost 40% cheaper in large and medium organisations than using a combination of alternative tools based on Java and Linux.

However, the findings were only based on a sample of 12 customers, and the study was paid for by Microsoft. Critics are likely to argue that the study does not properly take into account factors such as function, openness, future operating costs and costs of migrating from one technology to another.

In 2002, another big analyst group, IDC published a detailed report examining the costs of Linux and Windows 2000 in the enterprise over a five-year period. Windows was found to be cheaper for security, printing and local area networking, but marginally more expensive for web serving. [see link below].

Although six analysts spent several months researching the 22 page IDC report, critics savaged it because it was sponsored by Microsoft.

All of these reports have been seized upon by Microsoft marketing teams in their battle to convince users that even where software is free, it is not necessarily cheaper to use or own.

The economic arguments for deploying Linux extend beyond mere matters of cost. But the case is controversial.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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