Microsoft is calling its new anti-Linux ad campaign “Get the Facts,” but I call it “Get the FUD.”
At the heart of the campaign is a new Microsoft web site that provides you with the “industry case studies, business analysts reports, and test lab results” to make an intelligent decision between Microsofts operating systems and Linux. Yeah. Right. And, Im Bill Gates.
If you go to the site, the first report up is a 2002 vintage IDC report, which was sponsored by Microsoft, comparing total cost of ownership (TCO) of Windows 2000 to Linux. IDC found that W2K beat out Linux in four out of five common enterprise tasks. This was because “The cost advantages are driven primarily by Windows significantly lower costs for IT staffing, generally the largest single component of IT costs.”
I have no argument with that … in 2002 for Windows 2000. Too bad for Microsoft that its 2004. There are a lot more Linux technicians and administrators now than there were then, and now, Microsoft wants you to buy Server 2003, not W2K. Do the exact same study today and I suspect youll find Linux ahead of the game in IT staff costs.
There are far more experienced Linux IT staffers today than in 2002, and Linuxs network administration tools have gotten much better. As the IDC crew noted in the report, “Mature computing platforms have an advantage in cost measurements.” Today, Linux administrators have the edge over Server 2003 administrators in experience and maturity.
But, wait theres more. IDCs analysts also wrote that the “TCO advantage is not always, in and of itself, a compelling reason to initiate a move from one platform to the other. IDC notes that evaluating such a move would require a return on investment (ROI) justification as well as a compelling TCO metric.” IDC concludes, “when the TCO values that are associated with each of the compared platforms are relatively close, as is the case in our comparison of Linux and Windows 2000. Therefore, where platforms are currently in use within an organization, continued use of those platforms often makes a great deal of economic sense.”
In short, IDC concluded that while W2K was cheaper in TCO terms, it still wasnt so significantly cheaper.
That was then. This is now.
Driving Up TCO
Windows has gotten more expensive in terms of TCO, thanks to Licensing 6 and the introduction of a new platform; Linux has gotten cheaper. Next example of how much better Microsoft is, please.
Ah yes, next up is the Microsoft-sponsored study of Server 2003 versus Linux on the mainframe. Although the META Group name is attached to it, its sole role was to verify that the benchmark configurations and procedures were appropriate. META Group was not asked to, nor did they, endorse the results.
Microsoft also notes that although the boys from Redmond, Wash., used Ziff Davis Medias PC Magazine NetBench and WebBench tests, neither Ziff Davis Media nor VeriTest, the people in charge of developing and maintaining the benchmarks, were involved in the testing.
Now I happen to know those benchmarks pretty darn well. Ive used them for numerous projects over the years, and I know that theyre easy to beat. All you need do is control how the server is tuned, and objectivity goes out the window. I can make the same machine with the same operating system mosey along the way I do when Im going to the dentist for a root canal or zoom along as if I were trying to find out just how fast my 91 Toyota MR-2 sports car can go on a straightaway (124 mph by the by).
So in this case, Microsoft doesnt even hire someone to run the benchmarks: Microsoft itself is comparing competing products to its own, and wow, they win! I am so impressed.
The Giga Report
Next, we have the report that Microsoft bought from Giga Information Group that compared J2EE/Linux software development costs to Windows and .Net. Microsoft pushes the fact that the study found that it was cheaper to develop with Windows and .Net. What Microsoft doesnt trumpet is that Giga Informaiton Group also reported, “The study also indicates that many organizations will adopt Linux instead of Microsofts alternative.” Thats because many organizations saw Linux as a good way to reduce costs while retaining their Unix skills investments.
Microsoft also doesnt note that even with such caveats, the study was subjected to such a firestorm of criticism that Giga Information Group backed away from it, though it did not fully repudiate it.
Specifically, George Colony, the CEO of Forrester Research, Giga Information Groups parent company, said in a public letter, “Recently, in two isolated and unrelated cases (Microsoft and PeopleSoft), we conducted privately sponsored studies for two vendor clients. We stand by the integrity of both studies. However, we erred in allowing those clients to publicize the research findings.”
Colony went on, “In response to these two isolated events, Forrester has taken immediate steps to tighten our internal process and clarify our Integrity Policy. As part of this clarification, the company will no longer accept projects that involve paid-for, publicized product comparisons.”
Underneath the polite words, Forrester Research was saying that it saw studies like the J2EE one as endangering the “research integrity (that) is the core value of our company and is fundamental to Forresters value proposition.” If thats the kind of strong analyst backing Microsoft is finding to support its case, Microsoft is in trouble.
No Ballmer Rant
At least Microsoft is trying to be rational this time. Were not seeing Steve Ballmer rant and rave about open-source software being a threat to the software world. This time we no longer have such errant Microsoft-sponsored nonsense as the Alexis de Tocqueville Institutions comment: “The GPL has many risks, but the greatest is its threat to the cooperation between different parties who collaborate and create new technologies.” Uh, excuse me, but isnt the whole idea of the GPL to free programmers to work together?
Ah well, never mind that nonsense. This time around, Microsoft is trying to put together reasonable arguments to show that its products are better choices than those of the open-source community. Unfortunately for Microsoft, its own selections show there arent a whole lot of reasonable arguments against Linux out there.
I actually find this rather odd. Linux isnt perfect. XP Professional, W2K and Server 2003 do have points in their favor. Even so, I think that Linux is still the better choice for most businesses, but heck, I could argue better for Microsofts cause than they do! If the best Redmond can do is rehash old and discredited analyst reports, maybe Microsoft really is right to worry about Linux.
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eWEEK.com Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.