Windows Server Woos Linux Customers

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-06-21 Print this article Print

The migrations come after a quarter in which Windows Server revenue grew faster than Linux revenue for the first time since 1998.

Wooed by compelling application ecosystems, performance and cost, several large enterprise Linux customers have begun slowly migrating back to Windows Server, eWEEK reporting has found. The migrations come after a quarter in which Windows Server revenue grew faster than Linux revenue—the first time that has happened since research company IDC started tracking Linux server spending in 1998.
Recent Linux-to-Windows converts include consumer products manufacturer Unilever, online retailer, French sports yacht Areva Challenge (the French entry for the 32nd Americas Cup yacht race), and California candy maker Jelly Belly.
Windows is particularly gaining ground against Unix and Linux on the supercomputing front, a space that Microsoft did not play in until 2006, when it released its Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 product. The potential for Microsofts penetration into that space was underscored in an online survey it sponsored that was conducted by GfK Custom Research North America, known as the Microsoft High-Performance Computing Capital Markets Survey 2007. Some 83 percent of the 154 qualified high-performance computing users at capital markets firms who responded are considering a Microsoft solution for their next appropriate project, while 24 percent plan to increase the capacity of their high-performance computing environments by 1,000 nodes or more in the next 12 to 18 months, the survey found. Computer maker Sun Microsystems, too, having weathered extensive customer migrations off Solaris following the dot-com bust, is experiencing an uptick in Solaris interest. "Some people are now taking a look and moving back again," said Dan Roberts, director of marketing for the Solaris operating system at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun. "Its an interesting experience to see. We are starting to win some return deals with our x86 solutions, like with Mark Andreessens social networking company Ning. They looked at Red Hat and Dell and found Sun systems and Solaris were significantly less expensive and had the advantages of Solaris over Linux from a scalability and reliability standpoint." For all these changes, IDC analyst Al Gillen notes that Linux had a slightly higher growth rate than Windows in 2006, and he said he doesnt believe theres a trend moving away from Linux. "The thing about Linux is that there are elements that dont show up in the numbers at all, such as the guest operating system scenario in virtualization, where Linux is typically a net new deployment and Windows is the consolidation of existing servers into virtual servers," Gillen said. Is open source dying? Click here to read more. Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, agreed, arguing that most back-and-forth movement tended to be for a small subsection of a users infrastructure or for scenario-based deployments. "While people are always looking at free and open-source applications as an alternative to Microsoft, I am certainly not seeing a trend developing where customers who have moved to Linux are throwing it out and moving back to Unix or Windows. For one thing, that is not an easy or cheap move." Even so, several companies are indeed making the switch. One of the most interesting Linux-to-Windows transitions has come from online-only retailer, based in Salt Lake City, which made a decision in 1999 to build its Web-based business on open-source software —mainly SUSE Linux. But the companys preference for automatically using Linux for all core business systems—20 of its 28 servers were Linux—changed in mid-2001, when it decided to open its own warehouse instead of continuing to use a third-party fulfillment service. That meant replacing its internally developed, Linux-based order management system with an enterprise-class warehouse management system. "For the first time, we faced a situation in which Linux wasnt the automatic choice," said Carter Lee, Overstocks director of internal systems. "The business was growing rapidly, and our needs were changing at a similar pace. Theres a big difference between processing and fulfilling 20,000 orders per day and handling only 1,000 per day." Next Page: Making the transition.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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