Institute for Advanced Professional Studies

Linux vs. Windows:
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Survey*



Well, here is the Exec Summary report of "Redmond vs. Red Hat" over the last 12 months. "Veeery" interesting data by the venerable Laura DiDio of the Yankee Group.

"An overwhelming 88% of corporations report that Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Server 2003 operating system provides equal to or better performance and reliability than Linux in comparable usage scenarios." [February 25, 2008 update: 2008 Server Reliability Survey Results]

Those are the results of Yankee Group's independent, non-sponsored North American Linux Windows 2005 TCO Comparison survey. The results indicate that Microsoft's continued attention to hardening the core Windows operating system yielded tangible performance improvements.

The 88% of corporate customers who rated Windows performance equal to or better than Linux is a 12% increase from the 76% of customers who ranked Windows on a par with Linux in Yankee Group's 2004 TCO study.

Yankee Group's March 2005 poll of over of over 500 North American users indicates there is no universal clear-cut TCO basis to compel the corporate masses to do a wholesale switch from Windows to Linux as there is for a migration from UNIX to Linux. And there is no indication that users are replacing Windows with Linux. The majority of wholesale Linux defections continue to come at the expense of mid-range UNIX installations, although many organizations are installing Linux as a complementary OS to existing Windows servers. The survey found that Linux has maintained, but not expanded its healthy 15% market share compared with a 73% for various versions of Windows server from 2004 to 2005.

The survey emphasized that businesses continue to expand the ways in which they utilize Linux. Over 50% of corporations now utilize Linux for a variety of functions including: Web server, Email server and specialized application server. Perhaps the most startling survey revelation was the fact that over 50% of the respondents said they had performed a thorough TCO analysis. But when asked to calculate their specific Linux and Windows capital expenditure and maintenance costs, 75% on average, could not answer explicit questions.

Businesses lack crucial TCO information such as the cost of a Linux or Windows server upgrade; what they're spending on network management, third party applications, tools and utilities, ongoing maintenance, security, systems downtime, calls to the Help Desk and hardware and software break/fixes!

The absence of such crucial financial information makes it highly unlikely for corporations to make informed purchasing decisions and it heightens their risk of choosing technologies that are ill-suited to their business needs.

The 20% of Yankee Group survey respondents, who did possess the TCO data, indicated the most crucial issues and events that negatively and positively impact TCO and ROI occur at the application layer and services portion of the software infrastructure and not at the core server operating system foundation layer.

The survey yielded other surprises as well. Among the highlights:

  • Users rated security of Linux and Windows Servers nearly equal. The average security rating for Linux servers was 8.3 compared with 7.6 (on a scale of 1-to-10) for Windows servers.

  • Windows Servers recover 30% faster from Security attacks than Linux. It takes approximately 12 hours to restore Windows servers from a security attack compared to about 17.5 hours to bring back a Linux server.

  • Patch Management Woes Lessen for Windows, on the Rise for Linux. Windows security and patch management woes a major source of user concern and angst in Yankee Group's Linux, Windows and UNIX 2004 TCO Survey, have largely dissipated.

  • At the same time, Linux users expressed growing concern over the "forking" of the Linux and open source distributions - that is, the various versions of Linux distributions or customized versions of Linux could result in major management woes. The potential incompatibilities could make routine management functions such as patch management, upgrades and security fixes a nightmare.

Additional Survey Highlights:

  • Microsoft Mends Windows Patch Management - Respondents reported that the time spent on Windows patch management was reduced by an average of 80% at no incremental costs. This is due to Microsoft's decision to ship patches on a monthly rather than weekly basis and provide the Windows Update Services (WUS) free.

  • Conversely, survey respondents reported that the time they are spending performing patch management tasks in the Linux and open source environment grew commensurately from 2004 to the present as companies installed more open source.

  • Windows Server Downtime Costs Companies two to three times as much as Linux server downtime. This is not due to any inherent flaws in the Windows server OS, but rather reflects the crucial nature of the data and applications running on Windows servers. Windows application servers racked up the biggest downtime expenses: $5,624 per hour versus $1,168 in hourly downtime costs for comparable Linux application servers.

  • Linux Servers Take Nearly Four Hours or 30% Longer to Recover from a Security Attack than a similar Windows Server. The survey respondents revealed that it took them 17 hours on average for their Linux servers to recover from a security attack compared to an average recovery time of 13.2 hours for Windows Servers.

  • Linux Maintains Strong Server presence. Three-fifths of those polled - 60% - said they have Linux installed somewhere in the organization. This figure is unchanged from the 60% of businesses that had Linux servers installed, according to the Yankee Group's 2004 TCO Survey Comparison Report.

  • Linux Desktops are no threat to Windows XP's dominance. While 49% of businesses do have some Linux clients present in their organizations, only 1% uses Linux as its' primary desktop.

  • Red Hat is the Number One Linux Distribution Vendor. Red Hat holds 45% market share compared to 25% market share for its nearest competitor, Novell SuSE.

  • Approximately 20% of businesses will purchase outside indemnification for potential copyright infringement lawsuits.

  • One-third of businesses using Linux have provided no Linux training for their IT staffs.

  • Slightly more than one-third of companies - 35% - will use only in-house resources for their Linux migrations.

  • The overwhelming majority of businesses converting from Unix to Linux - 80% - will not retrain their Unix administrators on Linux.

Overall, Yankee Group's North American Linux Windows 2005 TCO Comparison Survey shows that Microsoft clearly and convincingly corrected the most severe technical customer concerns. It must now maintain that vigilance. The survey responses also show that Linux is no longer a pristine Utopian environment.

The increasing popularity and deployment of Linux and open source are making it prey to the same TCO issues that have long plagued their Microsoft Windows counterparts. Additionally, the Linux market is beginning to experience "forking" or fragmentation among the various distributions and customized code. There is a high probability that this will increase interoperability and integration issues. Corporate customers are already concerned about this. In summary, Linux and Windows each have specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats which can impact a corporation's TCO and ROI, positively or negatively.

To achieve optimum results and avoid undue deployment problems and expenses, corporations must perform a thorough cost, performance risk analysis to determine the right technology option. Any business that does not know or cannot determine the key costs associated with its software infrastructure risks making the wrong technology decision. Such a mistake may adversely impact the TCO of their respective environments for years.

By Laura DiDio
Senior Analyst
Yankee Group
Boston, MA

Posted: April 04, 2005

*Excerpts from a copyrighted newsletter prepared by the staff of W2Knews and distributed by IAPS with their permission. The views expressed in the above excerpts were drawn solely by W2Knews or Yankee Group and do not necessarily reflect the views of IAPS. NB: The entire W2Knews article was set in regular font. All text in bold font on this page was transformed from the original regular font by IAPS to emphasize specific points of interest.



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