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IBM gets own facts out for Linux v Windows

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IBM is kicking some total cost of ownership (TCO) dirt in Microsoft's face, releasing a numbers survey that claims Linux is cheaper to deploy and manage than Windows.

An IBM-sponsored Robert Frances Group study found it is 40 per cent cheaper to buy, implement and run an application server on an x86 server running Linux than on a similar server running Windows. Robert Frances polled IT executives at 20 mid-sized and large companies with 250 or more employees.

Lack of up-front licensing fee is a big factor in Linux's favor, with added savings also in skills - with Unix sysadmins crossing over to Linux - and lower support and maintenance.

IBM's report follows a concerted, two-year "Get the facts" campaign from Microsoft; this has seen Microsoft pay analysts to produce reports that compare total cost of ownership (TCO) of Windows against Linux, in addition to the operating systems' strengths in security.

Vendor-sponsored analyst reports are hardly new, but the level of interest generated by "Get the facts" is noteworthy. This was based mostly on concern that Microsoft tried to circulate fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about Linux through selective commissioning and reporting of data points.

Martin Taylor, Microsoft's platform strategy manager, recently defended its pay-to-report analyst strategy in conversation with The Register. "I stand 100 per cent by those [reports]. Show me a better way to work and I'll do it. The way the analyst community works is, you have to pay them," he said.

Taylor believes the reports help wage a "facts-based" campaign against Linux, diffusing some of the more rhetorical arguments for Linux and against Windows.

Robert Frances is itself no stranger to IBM, putting its name to other works on Linux available from the IBM web site. The analyst's work pitches Linux against IBM's Unix server nemesis Sun Microsystems, by examining Linux in comparison to Solaris.

And Microsoft's slow and steady drip, drip was bound to begin chafing IBM’s butt at some point - IBM is, after all the world's largest distributor of Linux. It seems that this point has arrived, and IBM has sponsored a report that - while it also tackles Linux versus Solaris - pits Linux directly against IBM's competitive fair-weather partner, Microsoft and its Windows operating system. The analyst's report is titled TCO for application servers: comparing Linux with Windows and Solaris.

Steve Mills, IBM's software group executive, gave a sign of things to last month, when he took IBM's first recorded swipe at "Get the facts". Speaking at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, Mills applied some counterspin of his own, saying: "Independent studies have consistently demonstrated a cost advantage for Linux with any typical workload, and it goes beyond the cost of buying the operating system." ®

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