Get the Facts Right on Linux, Microsoft

Opinion: Along with one of Microsoft's favorite research firms, companies that use both Linux and Windows are finding that Windows has no cost advantage over Linux. Are we surprised? I think not!

"The times they are a-changin," as Bob Dylan sang.

Last year, Microsoft launched an advertising blitz against Linux titled "Get the Facts," or as I liked to call it, "Get the FUD."

Some of Microsofts "facts" came from research by The Yankee Group. Then, Microsoft claimed that Yankee had found that switching to Linux from Windows was "prohibitively expensive, extremely complex [and] provides no tangible business gains."

Things have changed.

Now, Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio has found that most U.S. businesses say there is almost no difference between the costs of maintaining Windows-based versus Linux-based corporate servers.

Who knew?

Well, anyone whos used both.

According to DiDio, the true costs of server operating systems for an enterprise are determined by how long it takes to develop applications and ensure the security of servers.

Development time, in my experience, has little to do with any operating system and a whole lot to do with your programmers skills and tool sets.

As for security, well, while Yankee found that companies believe that Microsofts security has gotten a lot better, its still below Linuxs security rating.

I really dont understand how anyone can think Microsoft is more secure in the real world. While you can argue until youre blue in the face about how if Linux were as popular as Windows it would also have as many security problems, there are two simple problems with that argument.

First, in the field, Windows is less—far less—secure than Linux. You dont have to believe me. Just look at our security stories, count the ones pertaining to Windows and then count the ones about Linux. Enough said.

Second, at the server level, Linux is already getting to be as popular as Windows. Even DiDio, who has never been seen as a friend of Linux, said "server operating systems are largely commoditized."

Enough of studies and what I think; lets hear what someone who supports both platforms has to say.

I recently talked with John Engates, CTO of Rackspace Ltd., a leading Web hosting company with more than 13,000 servers and not quite a million domains.

Rackspace runs about a 50-50 mix of Windows and Linux for its servers. On the Windows side, the company runs 60 percent Windows 2000 and 40 percent Server 2003. In the Linux space, its RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) all the way.

With that many servers and domains, Rackspace knows both Windows and Linux servers about as well as anyone in the world. What it has found out is that the costs are a dead heat between the two.

Next Page: What people want from each operating system.