The Open Source Development Labs and Linux firm Levanta are striking back at Microsofts anti-Linux “Get the Facts” research campaign.
The Linux allies have published a 17-page research report entitled “Get the Truth on Linux Management” that challenges Redmonds claims that Linux has a higher TCO (total cost of ownership) and systems management costs than Windows.
The studys overall conclusion is that Linux may, in many cases, be substantially less expensive to own than Windows, Andi Mann, the senior analyst at EMA (Enterprise Management Associates) of Boulder, Colo., who conducted the research and wrote the report, told eWEEK in an interview.
“In various older studies, Microsoft and some analysts had claimed that Linux had a higher TCO than Windows and they attributed the difference mainly to higher system management costs, concluding that the higher TCO outweighed the much lower license and acquisition costs for Linux,” he said.
However, the EMA study found that this perception was no longer accurate as, with far lower acquisition costs, Linux was now a cost-effective alternative to Windows, he said.
The study, which was conducted last fall and winter and will be released this week, was sponsored by Levanta, Inc., a San Mateo, Calif.-based company that focuses on Linux management and data virtualization, and OSDL, of Beaverton, Oregon.
Stuart Cohen, the CEO of OSDL, told eWEEK in an interview that the study addressed a broad set of issues in real environments, contains current and timely data, and had findings that were consistent with what its global customer councils had been telling it.
“We thought this was worthwhile and a valuable way to bring customer confidence to people deploying Linux, which was why we agreed to sponsor it,” he said.
Matt Mossman, the CEO of Levanta, said the company had engaged EMA to do the research and then entered into an agreement with OSDL after that for co-sponsorship.
Last fall the company had introduced a systems management appliance and that moved it from dealing with pure data center people “who have always laughed off the TCO FUD associated with Linux because they knew it didnt work like that,” Mossman said.
With the appliance on the market, Levanta started to run into people who had bought that line.
“We had specific customers who questioned Linux and believed it might be difficult to manage. But when we questioned them, they said this was not their experience, but rather what they had read,” Mossman said.
“So it became apparent to us that we should get out with the truth about whether Linux was hard to manage now and if it had ever been hard to manage. But it is important for people to know that it is not hard to manage.”
For his part, Martin Taylor, the general manager of platform strategy at Microsoft told eWEEK that he was “excited to see the OSDL join Microsoft in working to deliver insights and facts we know customers need to help inform their IT decisions.”
The primary EMA research surveyed a random sample of several thousand IT organizations by telephone, and over one hundred self-selected Web respondents.
“The study was skewed towards Linux users as we were not looking to survey primarily Windows customers, but rather Linux customers and their experiences,” Mann said.
It was supplemented with interviews with selected CIOs and IT managers at companies ranging in size from small data centers of less than 20 servers to those with more than 1,000 servers globally and across a wide variety of large Linux and mixed environments.
“The genesis for this research study was not a head-to-head comparison with Microsoft. The goal was simply to measure and analyze the effort required to manage Linux systems,” Mann said.
In the study, EMA analyzed the cost factors cited in previous studies and canvassed more than 200 enterprises. It determined that organizations were managing their Linux environments more cost effectively and reliably than previously reported.
Comparing the Results
Among the key findings were that Linux tends to be more productive, as Linux administrators tend to manage more servers than Windows administrators, and Linux systems tend to handle greater workloads than Windows systems.
Three quarters of the administrators surveyed can provision a system in less than an hour using sophisticated tools, while a third can provision a system in less than 30 minutes.
Most Linux administrators spent less than 5 minutes per server per week on patch management. Sophisticated management tools reduce this effort even further.
Also, in more than 60 percent of cases, when problems occur in Linux environments they are diagnosed and repaired in less than 30 minutes, more than 8 times faster than industry average.
Some 88 percent of enterprises with Linux and Windows spent less effort managing Linux; while 97 percent said it was, at worst, the same for both systems.
“Respondents with sophisticated management tools all report Linux management is the same or easier than Windows management,” the study found.
Asked whether for cost comparative purposes he had looked at a vendor supported distribution and those costs rather than one that was unsupported and downloadable for free, Mann said that he did not look specifically at acquisition costs as a primary part of the research, which was rather about how difficult Linux was to manage.
“But where I did look at cost, I essentially looked at a support agreement-type arrangement through Red Hat. Also, from the Microsoft side I was not looking at total cost, but only the purchase of a license, so that wasnt apples to apples,” he said.
Asked about Microsofts tendency to focus on workload scenarios in the research it sponsored, Mann said those were often too specific in that respect.
“I dont know that has a lot of merit or adds a great deal of value. I think it really brings the specific result that was in mind.”
In conclusion, the “Get the Truth on Linux Management” study said that Linux is likely to be a significantly less expensive platform to acquire and manage than Windows.
“Respondents indicated that the average resource costs (salaries, training and support) are no longer significantly higher than Windows and that the management of Linux is of minimal concern when considering the overall TCO,” the study said.
Some open-source players like Julie Hanna Farris, the founder and chief strategy officer of Scalix Corp., a messaging infrastructure company based in San Mateo, Calif., whose products are based on a Linux and open systems architecture, welcomed the move.
OSDLs role was to enable Linux to succeed in the market and so, to the extent that there were misconceptions about Linux, they could provide a unified voice, she said.
“I dont think this is about battling Microsoft per se as much as it is about informing the public to eliminate any confusion and misconception that may exist there.”
Microsoft has, for the past two years, run an aggressive advertising campaign known as “Get the Facts,” where it sponsors research about issues it claims are common to Linux and Windows and important to customers.
Last year, Microsoft proposed a joint research project with the OSDL to do some fact-based analysis of Linux and Windows, a proposal which was flatly rejected by OSDLs Cohen.
But in this latest interview, Cohen pointed that OSDL was still willing to look at joint research with Microsoft around areas like virtualization, or the desktop, or Office on Linux.
“We would be very interested in working with them on those types of arrangements. We just want to work on something with them that is of very high value to our customers who are deploying Linux,” he said.
Microsofts Taylor said that he continued to be open to working with partners and competitors, alike, to jointly commission research that helped all its customers engage in an informed and respectful debate on the facts.
“While I have not yet seen this particular piece of commissioned work, there is a need for more collaborative industry research that delivers a level of transparency in the methodology so customers are able to apply it in their technology decision-making,” Taylor said.