Is Microsoft less expensive than Linux

Until recently, if you wanted to find someone who thought that a Windows-based program was cheaper than one based on Linux, you had to go all the way to Redmond, Washington. No more.

Not since Microsoft paid Forrester Research’s Giga Research to do a comparative study of the costs of developing a Web-based portal. The study compared the costs incurred by five large and mid-size companies that used the Java 2 Enterprise Edition with costs incurred by seven large and mid-size companies that used .Net applications. For large corporations in the study, the cost of using Microsoft products for development and deployment plus three years of maintenance was 28 per cent less than the cost for J2EE/Linux. And for mid-size companies, the Microsoft route was 25 per cent cheaper. Of course, it’s not shocking that a study commissioned by Microsoft should demonstrate the advantages of that company’s products over Linux, but the fact that the study was commissioned at all reveals Microsoft’s concern. And for good reason. IDC (a sister company to Computerworld’s publisher) recently reported that sales of Linux servers are growing faster than those of Windows servers, and Gartner tells us that the sales of servers running Linux are up nearly 60 per cent from a year earlier. In short, it’s a very good time for Bill Gates to pull out his chequebook and order up some market research.

A Giga study found that the biggest cost advantages of Microsoft products came in comparison to the cost of Linux-based products sold by software giants Oracle and BEA Systems. According to the study, large firms paid $US80,000 for Oracle’s database, compared with less than $40,000 for Microsoft SQL; and they paid $60,000 to BEA for development tools, compared with $12,500 to Microsoft Visual Studio .Net. Mid-size companies, the study found, enjoyed savings of similar proportions.

What would the cost savings look like if the companies that paid big bucks to Oracle and BEA had used free Linux-based databases and scripting tools such as PHP and MySQL? Giga doesn’t know because it didn’t look at any such companies. Giga — not Microsoft — decided which companies to look at.

In the spirit of fairness, the study does point out that it examined only the cost of Web portal applications using Linux and Windows, and that similar cost-benefit analyses of more sophisticated applications may favour Linux.

Is Microsoft less expensive than Linux? E-mail helen_han@idg.com.au with your feedback

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