If anything trumps the number of large enterprises using Linux, its the number of security patches Microsoft has posted in response to its operating system vulnerabilities over the last few years.
Yet talk out of Redmond lately sounds a bit like the rhetoric of the recent political campaign; its all about security and economy. In his companys continuing battle against open-source software, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently sent an e-mail to Microsoft users around the world describing how Windows is cheaper and more secure than Linux. Ballmers memo, titled "Customer Focus: Comparing Windows with Linux and UNIX," is full of spin and references to flawed studies funded by Microsoft.
Ballmer stated: "Its pretty clear the facts show that Windows provides a lower total cost of ownership than Linux. The number of security vulnerabilities is lower on Windows, and Windows responsiveness on security is better than Linux. And Microsoft provides uncapped IP [intellectual property] indemnification of their products." This memo came on the day that Novell and Dell announced a major Linux pact under which Dell servers would be factory-loaded with SuSE Linux.
Why is Microsoft so hot and bothered? Earlier this year, Microsofts 10-K filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated that, of all the threats to Microsofts revenues, "Linux, in particular, presents a competitive challenge." The Linux server growth numbers reported by IDC, Gartner and other analysts tell the story. A study released last year by Evans Data found that Linux is replacing Windows and Unix in equal amounts.
Linux is a threat because it challenges Microsofts monopoly on operating systems designed for Intel-based hardware. Linux has made big inroads and has proved to be a viable open operating system that provides a lower TCO, improved security, reliability and performance.
It is clear from Microsofts actions that it fears Linux. Last year, Microsoft launched a "Get the Facts" campaign to discredit Linux and open source. The campaign is driven primarily from Microsofts Web site, which contains analyst reports (most are sponsored by Microsoft), case studies and white papers. The analyst reports target customer concerns such as TCO, security and reliability.
Such an attack reflects Microsofts desperation over the growing adoption of Linux by companies worldwide. It also reflects the increasing abandonment of the Microsoft platform by customers because of problems with security, licensing, rising cost and complexity, and the need to escape the Microsoft lock-in.
Tens of thousands of customers—in the private sector and in government—are benefiting today from Linux and open-standards-based computing, and that growth is showing no sign of slowing.
Bob Cancilla is vice president of IS at Republic Indemnity Co. of America. He is founder of Ignite/400, a user group for IBM eSeries systems and is a consultant for platform-independent technologies. Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community and welcomes contributions. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.