You could be an IT Manager, a
financial consultant or an IS Auditor on a
committee facing a dilemma of choosing the right
operating environment which is inline with the
company's needs. You have a scenario to deploy
100+ PC nodes in a client-server network
infrastructure. The existing staff is familiar
with Windows but your mind strays towards Linux
due to budgetary constraints. What should you
The wisest move is
to carry out a TCO. The term Total Cost of
Ownership refers to the total costs to be
incurred due to the operation of that system
over a period of time, say five years. This cost
would typically include, but not be limited to,
software purchase & licensing costs, support,
personnel training, maintenance and
upgradeability costs (if any).
There are very few
organizations in Pakistan who carry out deep
statistics to see whether their IT
infrastructure investment is cost-effective or
actually pays back in the long run. Most
companies skip this step, citing time and costs.
In some cases lack of insight into such matters
cause them to embrace a typical setup.
Unfortunately for them, their
efforts may have paid off if they had adhered to
some of the guidelines to consider when
calculating the TCO for any system:
Acquisition & Licensing
Cost: Type of license granted, period,
renewal cost and the cost of purchasing the
operating system itself. Linux is free or
cheaper compared to Windows.
Training Costs: How
much are you likely to spend on training the
staff and the tech support? *nix training is
Hardware Acquisition Cost:
Check whether the operating system is hardware
compatible with current systems. Don't expect
Win XP to run on a Pentium I machine with 32MB
RAM, Linux is more likely to.
Maintenance Cost: This
can be calculated as the number of hours lost
due to redundant repairs, performance tuning or
Support Costs: 24/7,
on-site trouble shooting, live support? Is the
support free or are there additional costs?
Compatibility: If your business requires
cross-communication between two different
platforms check whether the OS supports this or
requires additional bridging software.
Stability: System down
time may put-off
customers. Lay greater emphasis on
stability for mission-critical applications.
User friendliness: If,
after basic training, the user still has to
frequently access the manual or help, then you
are losing precious productivity hours.
Depending on your environment
and business needs, draw out at least three
systems side by side (Windows vs. UNIX vs.
Linux) and add up across them to see which
solution would give the best trade- off.
Depending again on your environment, you might
like to give stronger emphasis to maintenance
costs being a major factor, as compared to
acquisition & licensing costs which startup
companies would like to keep low.
In lieu of this, Microsoft has
been recently openly advertising Windows Server
2003 as being a more cost effective solution
pitted against its strongest rival the Open
Source Linux alternative. Microsoft makes a bold
claim backed by independent leading tech
consultants such as Forrester and the Yankee
Group. If you have come across the recent
Microsoft ad placed in local newspapers and
magazines, then you know what I'm referring to.
Below are some of the many interesting findings
posted on Microsoft's site:
"Equifax, a direct marketing service enterprise
worth US$1.2 billion in internal analysis proved
that Windows would realize a 14% cost savings
over Linux on their mainframe systems.
Computer Builders Warehouse (CBW), who sell
computers to various segments found a 25% saving
in TCO when moving from Red Hat Linux to
Windows, 50% reduced maintenance time, 50%
consolidation in server population which
totaled $650,000 annual savings.
A Yankee Group study concluded that for large
enterprises a total switch from Windows to Linux
would be 3-4 times more expensive and take throe
times longer to deploy as compared to upgrading
A BearingPoint whitepaper sponsored by Microsoft
found that licensing and support do net
significantly differ between Windows Server
2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and Novell/SUSE
Linux 8 and also found Windows Server 2003 to be
cheaper in several cases.
A Forrester study concluded that Microsoft has
the lowest elapsed time between a vulnerability
disclosure and its subsequent fix and also found
in another study that Linux training is 15%
costlier than Windows. Secunia, a security
website compiled statistics which show that
Windows Server 2003 has 1.7 advisories per month
compared to 7.3 advisories for Red Hat
Enterprise Linux 3:'
As much as Microsoft would like to openly boast
its superiority, a UK report prepared by the
Office of Government Commerce proves Linux as a
viable cost-effective solution generating
Though this cat-and-mouse game
may never end as long as there are Microsoft
loyalists and Open Source pioneers, the tide is
likely to swing to each side but albeit
momentarily. The debate considerably puts the
situation in to the spotlight and its now easier
to make an informed choice. You are no longer
bound to use Windows and Linux is not a free