Study: Linux Cheaper to Manage Than Windows-Based Systems

In the latest chapter of the Linux-versus-Microsoft total cost of ownership debate, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and Levanta this week released a new report to bolster the pro-Linux argument.

A 17-page report based on an Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) study called “Get the Truth on Linux Management” re-examines previously reported, anti-Linux management claims. EMA derived its updated analysis from in-depth research with more than 200 end users.

“For too long, special interest groups have attacked the manageability of Linux, and fueled the F.U.D. [fear, uncertainty, doubt] that Linux environments are somehow more difficult or labor-intensive to manage than Windows environments,” said Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Open Source Development Labs. “In fact, Linux system management tools are in many cases outpacing Windows management tools.”

Refuting Windows Studies

In previous studies, Microsoft and some industry analysts claimed that Linux has a higher TCO than Windows, and have cited higher systems management costs as a significant shortcoming for Linux.

In “Get the Truth on Linux Management” OSDL said EMA findings indicate that previously reported Linux management “pains” no longer hold true, and that enterprises running Linux are in fact often spending less time and money on common systems administration tasks than they are with their comparable Windows environments.

In its vendor-neutral study, EMA analyzed the cost factors cited in previous studies, canvassed more than 200 enterprises, and determined that organizations are managing their Linux environments more cost-effectively and reliably than previously reported.

The Four Ps of Linux

On the productivity front, the EMA study concluded that Linux tends to be more productive, as Linux administrators tend to manage more servers than Windows administrators, and Linux systems tend to handle greater workloads than Windows systems.

In terms of provisioning, 75 percent of administrators using sophisticated tools can provision a system in less than one hour, according to the report, and one third can provision a system in less than 30 minutes.

When it comes to patch management, EMA said most Linux administrators spend less than five minutes per server per week on patch management. Sophisticated management tools reduce this effort even further.

Fast Repair

In over 60 percent of cases, when problems occur in Linux environments they are diagnosed and repaired in less than 30 minutes, over eight times faster than industry average, EMA reported.

Finally, 88 percent of enterprises with Linux and Windows spend less effort managing Linux; 97 percent believe it is, at worst, the same for both systems. Respondents with sophisticated management tools all report Linux management is the same or easier than Windows management.

“Get the Truth on Linux Management” decided that in many cases, Linux is likely to be a significantly less expensive platform to acquire and manage than Windows.

Respondents indicated that the average resource costs (salaries, training, and support) are no longer significantly higher than Windows and that the management of Linux is of minimal concern when considering the overall TCO.

Is It True?

Cost of ownership analyses are interesting, but typically represent one piece of a puzzle that every user has to solve individually, according to Tony Iams, vice president and operating systems analyst at Ideas International.

“For a while the press and the market was preoccupied with this question about whether Linux was going to kill Windows and whether Linux fundamentally introduced a value proposition was going to pull users away from Microsoft. In general, this whole question of Linux versus Windows is reaching a point of stability,” Iams told LinuxInsider.

Analyzing Effort

Linux and Windows, he observed, are each capturing their respective markets and these types of studies no longer have a huge impact that cause fundamental changes in the operating system landscape.

Of course, study authors never implied it would.

“The genesis for this research study was not a head-to-head comparison with Microsoft,” said Andi Mann, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. “The goal was simply to measure and analyze the effort required to manage Linux systems.”

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