IBM seems to be following in Microsofts footsteps. On Tuesday, IBM held a roundtable conference call to highlight the findings of two recent Linux research reports it had sponsored.
The issue of sponsored research has long been a controversial one, with Microsoft coming under fire for its “Get the Facts” campaign, which largely uses Microsoft sponsored research to compare the advantages of using Windows Server over Linux.
Sponsored research has been in the spotlight recently following a story first reported on eWEEK.com that Microsoft had approached the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) to work on a research project involving analysis of Linux and Windows.
OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen has ruled out any such co-operation between the two companies.
Asked by eWEEK.com if IBMs sponsored research was a response to the Microsoft “Get the Facts” campaign, Scott Handy, the vice president of Worldwide Linux for IBM, said that, while it was not a direct response, “we get a lot of requests from customers for research that gives them the other side, the Linux point of view.
“I firmly believe customers find us [IBM] credible, as we have businesses around Linux, Unix and Windows, and that adds balance,” he said.
Handy, who moderated the roundtable discussion, said that the momentum around Linux has continued unabated and that there has been steady growth in the Linux server market over past five years.
“Last quarter there was $1.5 billion in Linux server sales as an industry, with Linux server revenue growing eight times that of the overall server market at 42 percent, versus five percent growth for the total sever market. That growth was also more than four times that of Microsofts Windows Server, which gained 10 percent,” Handy said.
The quarterly figures also showed that IBM continued to be the dominant Linux server supplier, continuing to take share on the x86 hardware front, while some 40 percent of its market share came from Linux on Power and the mainframe, Handy said.
“A third of workloads now being deployed on Linux come from Unix, a third from Windows and a third are new installations,” Handy said.
While the research reports had been sponsored by IBM, Handy said the methodologies were those of the analyst firms and represented customer interviews and input.
The research report by the Robert Francis Group was released this month and is entitled “TCO for Application Servers: Comparing Linux with Windows and Solaris.”
It is an update and extension of a 2002 TCO study that compared Linux to Solaris and Windows, said Chad Robinson, a senior RFG analyst.
“TCO gets a lot of criticism, as these are numbers you can push back and forth, and we believe that based on what weve found, Linux is of significant value to large enterprises,” Robinson said.
“We talked to IT executives and their direct reports. But these are companies with large systems and lots of IT staff, so you need to bear that in mind.”
The study found that the way that people look at Linux in the enterprise is evolving and moving away from a fixation on TCO.
But TCO still remains an important element of short-term and long-term strategic value from their deployments, Robinson added.
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Linux is also now definitely on the radar screen, and even with Microsoft lowering some of its software prices and Sun supporting Opteron and creating OpenSolaris, Linux was still less expensive over a three-year timeframe, the study showed.
Today, real business applications are running on Linux and the study thus focused on J2EE application servers.
It found that these deployments on Linux were 40 percent less than Windows and 54 percent less than for Solaris over three years.
The biggest delta was on the software license side, but the study also found a big hardware delta for Windows, as many participants were not running their hardware utilization levels to the same level they were for Unix.
Flexibility was one of the key reasons enterprises were looking to Linux as the platform to meet all of their workloads.
The long-term roadmap for Linux was also seen as very dependable, which was a change from a few years ago when there were a lot of questions about its future, Robinson said.
“So, Linux is cheaper and thats great, but there are other non-monetary benefits to using it. The cost savings will remain an important element, but the strategic benefits will grow to be more dominant factors in the deployment decisions people are making,” Robinson said.
But the issue of how to quantify TCO remains controversial. Microsoft has funded its own TCO studies. Peter Shay, the executive vice president of the Advisory Council, said in a talk at the 2004 OReilly Open Source Convention that “because there are a lot of different factors that go into TCO, and the published reports make widely differing assumptions that may or may not pertain to your business, you should do your own analysis.”
Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc., talked about the IBM-funded report he had authored, and published this month, entitled “Beyond TCO—The Unanticipated Second Stage Benefits of Linux.”
His research centered around three enterprises: U.S. retailer Boscovs Department Stores; Zahid Tractor, a Saudi Arabian supplier of heavy and industrial equipment; and Alliance UniChem CZ, Europes second largest pharmaceutical wholesaler. All these companies had used Linux significantly for more than 18 months.
Click here to read more about what Boscovs CIO Harry Roberts said at the Linux Solutions Retail Conference.
All three companies had decided to migrate to Linux to improve their IT infrastructures, lower costs and increase efficiency.
“All three succeeded in their efforts, reaching or exceeding the goals and results they planned,” King said. “All realized significant second stage benefits that resulted in improved IT capabilities, enhanced staff performance and reduced effort and costs.”
All the companies also reaped unexpected benefits, such as lower migration costs and the ability to leverage the skills of their in-house IT staff.
They all also reported benefits from working with and participating in the open source community, and all planned to accelerate their usage of Linux solutions in the future, King said.
IBMs Handy concluded that “the reports cite examples of how Linux has given some customers a 40 percent lower TCO than Solaris and Windows servers, as well as other benefits beyond this. “They also show that once customers get started with Linux, they continue to do more and more with it going forward,” he said.