Is Linux cheaper than Windows to manage?
As part of its "Get The Facts" campaign, Microsoft has argued for
years that Linux is more expensive to manage than Windows. A new
study out this week from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA),
sponsored by the Linux backers OSDL and Levanta, asserts that Linux
is now in fact cheaper to manage than Windows.
Eighty-eight percent of survey respondents reported that they
spend less effort managing Linux than Windows. Some 97 percent noted
that, at worst, systems management effort is the same whether it's
Windows or Linux.
The report also contends that Linux is cheaper to manage than
Windows from a security point of view. 88 percent of respondents
indicated that they spend fewer than 10 minutes per week per server
managing malware and spyware.
"When asked to compare security management between Linux and
Windows, the interviewees strongly endorsed Linux as easier to
manage and inherently less vulnerable," the report states. "Only a
small minority spend the same amount of time managing spyware and
viruses on Linux and Windows. None reported spending more time on
Linux than Windows."
Acquisition and resource costs for Linux are apparently lower, as
well. EMA said that Linux acquisition costs may be nearly $60,000
less per server than Windows. The report also found that Linux is
more productive since Linux system administrators typically handle
more systems than Windows administrators.
The cost of those Linux systems administrators is also not
necessarily that much higher (if at all) than their Windows
counterparts, either. 17 percent of Windows administrators reported
earning more than $70,000 a year, in comparison to 22 percent for
For systems administrators earning less than $60,000 per year, 60
percent were Windows and 52 percent were Linux.
"One of the big issues over time has been that Linux skills were
more expensive to acquire than Windows skills," OSDL CEO Stuart
Cohen told internetnews.com. "I'm glad that's gone away.
"Linux has gone mainstream enough that there are enough people
out there that companies can now hire Linux skills and take
advantage of that."
Though the report identifies Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, (at least in its hardware costs
comparison) Cohen doesn't think it's the distribution that matters
when it comes to cost of management.
"I don't think it's a given flavor of the distribution that
matters, "Cohen said. "I think it's more experience level than
So what does Microsoft think of the OSDL-sponsored study?
"We're excited to see the OSDL join Microsoft in working to
deliver insights and facts we know customers need to help inform
their IT decisions," Microsoft's Martin Taylor, general manager of
Platform Strategy said in an e-mailed statement.
Taylor noted that 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.
"Microsoft continues to be open to working with partners and
competitors, alike, to jointly commission research that helps all
our customers engage in an informed and respectful debate on the
facts," Taylor said.
The OSDL's Cohen sees Microsoft's Get The Facts efforts as being
"I don't think there was anything offensive about it," Cohen
said. "Obviously they were just concerned about Windows keeping the
market share that it has. It's just territorial. It's just business
and I think that's fine."
It's important to note, though, that the EMA study does not
specifically compare total cost of ownership (TCO) of Linux versus
Rather, the report focuses on whether server management on Linux
is a barrier to cost-effective operations. Cohen noted that the OSDL
has no plans at this time to commission or sponsor a study on Linux
"We didn't really feel that it was necessary to invest in a lot
of research based on the fact that Linux was already having a lot of
success -- double-digit, quarter-on-quarter growth for the last 15
quarters," Cohen said.