In various studies, Microsoft and some analysts have claimed Linux has a higher total cost of ownership (TCO) than Windows. They attributed the difference mainly to higher systems-management costs, and concluded that the higher TCO outweighed the lower license and acquisition costs for Linux.
In a new study of more than 200 Linux enterprises conducted for Levanta, however, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) found that this perception is no longer accurate. Sophisticated management tools now allow Linux management to be fast, effective and inexpensive. With lower acquisition costs, Linux is now a cost-effective alternative to Windows, EMA says.
Study respondents represented a range of industries, with most organizations being small to midsize enterprises, earning less than $5 million in revenues, although 27 percent had revenues of more than $100 million. Most respondents had fewer than 500 employees, but almost 20 percent had more than 2,500 employees.
EMA analyzed the cost factors cited in previous studies and found the following:
Seventy-five percent of administrators using sophisticated tools can provision a Linux system in less than one hour; one-third can provision a system in less than 30 minutes. Most Linux administrators spend less than five minutes per server per week on patch management. Sophisticated management tools reduce this effort even further.
Most respondents reported 99.99 percent or higher availability for their Linux systems. A significant number (17 percent) reported no downtime at all. In more than 60 percent of cases when problems occur in Linux environments, they are diagnosed and repaired in less than 30 minutes, more than eight times faster than the industry average.
Eighty-eight percent of enterprises with Linux and Windows spend less effort managing Linux; 97 percent say it is, at worst, the same for both systems. Respondents with sophisticated management tools all reported Linux management is the same or easier than Windows management. Enterprises with sophisticated management tools did not find any significant difference in storage-management effort or utilization for either Windows or Linux.
Salaries for combined Linux/Windows administrators are only marginally higher than for Linux-only administrators. Linux skills are readily available. Seventy-nine percent of enterprises spent nothing on Linux consulting, and 63 percent spent nothing on training. For similar environments, Linux acquisition costs can be almost $60,000 less per server than Windows in software costs alone. Windows also incurs higher hardware costs. 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.