Corporate IT users are getting caught in the middle of another spin war between Microsoft Corp. and the Linux and Unix communities, most recently Novell Inc.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent a memo late last month to customers and partners lauding the benefits and advantages of the Windows platform over Linux and Unix, raising the ire of open-source proponents charging that Ballmers data was biased.
Ballmer wrote that Microsoft staff around the world have been fielding customer questions about whether open source really provides a long-term cost advantage compared with Windows, and which platform offers the most security. Microsoft customers also want to know about intellectual property indemnification and the best migration alternative for moving from a Unix platform, Ballmer wrote.
Ballmers e-mail cited case studies and research studies, many of which were sponsored by Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., and can be found on its Get the Facts Web site, a program started in January that aims to give customers information about the advantages of using Microsofts Windows operating system versus Linux.
Novell officials in Waltham, Mass., offered a rebuttal last week. John Hogan, Novells vice president of strategic marketing, accused Ballmer of using only statements, principally from commissioned studies, that reflected most positively on Microsoft.
"A broader look paints a much more objective picture, one more favorable to Linux," Hogan said.
Ballmer wrote that "research methodology, findings and conclusions were the sole domain of the analyst firms," but Hogan said Microsoft nevertheless generally specified the configurations of the tests.
Ballmer wrote that while Linux presents itself as a "free" operating system, a study by The Yankee Group of 1,000 IT administrators and executives stated that a major Linux deployment or switch from Windows to Linux would be three to four times more expensive and take three times as long to deploy as an upgrade from one version of Windows to a newer release.
Novells Hogan said Ballmer selected only the parts of the report that support a Windows strategy and ignored statements such as "corporate customers report Linux provides businesses with excellent performance, reliability, ease of use and security." The report also stated that Linux is a "viable alternative" to Unix and Windows, Hogan said. The survey by The Yankee Group, of Boston, also found that Linuxs total cost of ownership and return on investment could be less than, comparable to or more expensive than those of Unix or Windows, depending on the circumstances, Hogan said.
George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn., said there is no question about Linuxs becoming mature. At last months Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., Weiss said that by 2006, Linux "will meet the performance requirements of 80 percent to 90 percent of single OLTP [online transaction processing] applications."