Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Linux software needs a friendly face
Microsoft has switched it's battle tactics from the not so successful one of calling Linux a cancer that spreads to anything it touches to one that focuses on the cost factor - the total cost of ownership. A little while ago, a Microsoft sponsored study by IDC compared the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Linux and Windows software. IDC used a five-year timeframe, which is a typical lifecycle for many IT implementations of server operating systems, and interviewed IT executives and managers at 104 North American companies in multiple industries who have used both operating systems. The study has added some weight to Microsoft's argument that Linux is not as cost effective as popularly perceived. So while the study acknowledges Linux as offering advantage over Windows in workload/hardware utilization and lower up front costs of licensing. In the areas of network infrastructure, print serving, file serving and security, participants reported between 11 to 22 percent savings over a five-year period -- primarily as a result of Windows' significantly lower IT-staffing costs. The findings show that investment in resources to engineer products that are comprehensive, easy-to-use, and deliver value 'out of the box'' for key IT scenarios is paying off for customers in the form of lower TCO. The study shows that lower cost of learning and managing, deployment and repair all add up to a lot of saving. IDC's findings show that factors such IT-staff-skill requirements and long-term supportability, have a far greater impact on the overall cost of IT solution ownership. So the challenge for the people developing solution on the Linux platform is to create well-engineered and user-friendly products like those that exist in the Windows world. For example, there is no dearth of Systems integrators who can configure an email solution from freely available open source components for a small fee. Though well-designed open source components to create an email network exist, it is not enough to put together the available open source components. The email network is a complex systems and a critical communication infrastructure for an enterprise. The form in which most solutions are being offered on Linux today, is not doing much to put users at ease. A typical refrain at most organizations is ' we don't have Linux expertise around here so we'll keep away from it' Systems integrators who configure solutions based on open source components manage only to create system that could be missing on elements that are important to the customer. Making life difficult and expensive for the user and negating the initial advantage that Linux has to offer by way of low start-up costs and hardware resource requirement. That's much like buying a car that works efficiently but would need ‘expert’ help even for things like replacing a flat tyre or refueling the car.