How Useful Are Proprietary vs. Open Source TCO Studies?

The best TCO studies are the ones you do yourself concludes software analyst David Wheeler.

Weve all seen Microsofts latest barrage of studies that say their products are more cost-effective than the competition. Naturally, many accuse Microsoft -- and other companies that publish outside studies that support their corporate goals -- of bias, if not outright deception. To get a little more insight into the value of TCO studies, we turned (via email) to David A. Wheeler, who has done more than a few software cost-comparisons himself, for advice about how much we should (and shouldnt) trust "sponsored" research.

NewsForge: Microsoft has recently been claiming -- loudly -- that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for its Windows server products are lower than the cost of equivalent Linux and open source software. Is this true?

Wheeler: Not in the way Microsoft wishes. TCO is extremely sensitive to a specific circumstance, so a TCO for one situation doesnt usually apply to other cases. Im sure that there are cases where Microsofts approach has a lower TCO than alternatives, so in those specific cases its true. However, there are also cases where open source software or Linux-based solutions have a lower TCO. You really have to consider all the costs for your specific situation, and your results may differ.

That point is made by some of the papers that Microsoft is referencing, but its not restated in Microsofts "Get the Facts" Web pages.

Also, note that almost all of their "independent" studies were actually funded by Microsoft. You should consider suspect any study of a vendor thats funded by that vendor -- especially if that was the only funding.

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