Yankee Shocker: Linux More Costly Than Windows

by Hinesh Jethwani    Apr 06, 2004

According to a new Yankee Group survey of 1,000 IT administrators and C-level executives worldwide, for large enterprises, a platform switch from Windows to Linux is in fact more expensive than upgrading to newer versions of Windows.

Probably the most shocking survey revelation of its kind, 90 percent of the 300 large enterprises with 10,000 or more end users indicated that a significant or total switch from Windows to Linux would be prohibitively expensive, extremely complex and time consuming, and would not provide any tangible business gains for the organization.

“In large enterprises, a significant Linux deployment or total switch from Windows to Linux, would be three to four times more expensive and take three times as long to deploy than an upgrade from one version of Windows to newer Windows releases,” said Laura Didio, Yankee Group application infrastructure & software platforms senior analyst.

“The instances where Linux imparts measurably improved TCO compared with Unix and Windows, are in small firms with customized vertical applications or new, greenfield networking situations,” added Didio.

Seeking to substantiate facts and test the practicability of the survey, CXOtoday decided to carry out a little investigation itself. Strongly negating the results, and manning the Linux side of the fort, was Javed Tapia, Director, Red Hat Linux India.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Tapia dismissed the very basis of the survey as suspect. Citing facts and figures, he explained, “For large enterprises with more than 10,000 users, cost benefits could be as high as 90%, and about 30-40% for enterprises at the mid-tier rung. One of the strongest examples of a large enterprise incurring massive gains with a Linux switch is Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).”

LIC moved a mind-boggling 25,000 desktops and 1,000 servers to the Linux platform. Another big winner is Central Bank of India, which expects to register a benefit of $3 million on software licenses and manpower over a three-year period, thanks to its giant Linux leap.

More importantly, Tapia reasoned, “Migration today is driven solely on the superior performance that Linux offers. The TCO concept was initially the prime reason that most enterprises considered a Linux option. However, reliability, security and stability have quickly become the strongest selling points of the Operating System. Today even leading banks that we are speaking to do not look at cost saving as the sole reason for buying Linux.”

In stark contrast, strongly defending the integrity of the survey, Ranjivjit Singh, director - business & marketing operation, Microsoft Corporation India, said, “The report reiterates our stand that over a period of time, the TCO on Microsoft’s platform is lower when compared to competitive offerings like Linux. Our platform provides the highest degree of security, reliability, scalability and availability that customers require in today’s business environment. Moreover, it is a proven platform.”

Supplementing Microsoft’s TCO claims were a list of satisfied MS Exchange customers. Mani Mulki, CIO, Godrej Industries Limited, said, “The fact is that Linux is not really free. Today we pay 1/6th the amount for support, than I did when we were using the Linux Send Mail solution.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, Sujit Agarwal, AVP - IT, Hutchison Telecom East Limited, said, “Earlier, 10% of all the time spent by the IT team was on managing the mail infrastructure. This has come down to less than 3% today.”

“With Linux, there was nobody offering us support. If there was a problem we had to do our own R&D to find out what was wrong,” said, Hitendra Patil, vice president - operations, CDSL.

Driving the final word on the issue, Akhil Pandey, NDPL, said, “Linux-based solutions no longer deliver!”

Although survey respondents strongly vouched for the performance, reliability, ease of use and security of Linux, tangible TCO benefits seemed to be limited to small firms only. Linux’s technical merits, while first-rate, are equivalent but not superior to Unix and Windows Server 2003, according to the respondents.

The survey further found that although Linux’s momentum is undeniable, the Open Source operating system will not dethrone Microsoft Windows as the leading server vendor in the next 2 years. And Linux desktops are not expected to make a ’perceptible dent’ in Windows’ 94 percent market share between now and 2006.

However, fourth quarter sales of subscriptions for Red Hat Enterprise Linux increased by 87,000 new subscriptions, comprising of 61,000 subscriptions sold into the enterprise IT market and 26,000 subscriptions sold into the HPC and hosting markets. Also, renewal rates for sales of Red Hat Enterprise Linux remained strong at approximately 90%.

Although sales figures of Linux state otherwise, whether it will be able to rattle Microsoft’s popularity still seems a question mark.

Tags: Yankee