Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Business Value

Saturday, December 28, 2002  

An AP article published on Christmas discusses how Microsoft's latest marketing strategy against Linux is changing to the concept of "business value." About time, I say. Let's examine the article's contents.

Companies including Sun Microsystems and IBM are rolling out products and creating business models based on Linux.

And Microsoft has seized on that development - and points out the technological expertise and labor needed to tailor Linux to companies' needs - in arguing that free isn't really free.

Linux can require costly technical staff, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group.

``You lose the ability to buy something and plug it in,'' he said. ``It takes you more time to do it. If the (Linux expert) leaves, you could be left with something that's unsupportable.''

I have submitted quotes to reporters and seen things in print that never came out of my mouth. Nevertheless, either the reporter is incredibly biased for Microsoft or Mr. Enderle is a shill. Here's a newsflash for you, Rob -- technical personnel, be they Windows, Linux, Solaris, Cisco or IBM experts, are expensive! And if an IT person is just "plugging in" a Windows server they should be fired and replaced with someone who is competent. I admit that my perspective is from a small business of 100 users. I certainly expect that if I'm cross-training in my organization then enterprise IT departments are as well, which makes this line, um, unsupportable.

The company even commissioned a study, by International Data Corp., concluding that in network infrastructure, file serving, print serving and security workloads, Linux-based servers cost more to run than Microsoft Windows 2000 server software over a five-year period. The report cites the staffing costs as the biggest reason.

I've gone over this in previous posts. This IDC study was a crock and assumes two things that aren't true: 1) that the Windows OS won't be upgraded over that five-year period and 2) the licensing costs weren't adjusted upwards to be in line with Microsoft's Licensing 6.0. With the additional software expense and training costs for the Windows OS upgrade, I wouldn't hesitate to say Linux slaps Windows about the head and leaves it unconscious. Skepticism is reported by resellers, journalists, professionals and even IDC itself. Of course, the whole concept of TCO is put into place in this interview with one of the IDC study's authors.

``To make that argument it really needs to be made by practitioners, not by the vendor itself,'' the analyst said. ``To make it stick you really need company (information technology) managers to stand up.''

I had to search long and hard to find any articles that had positive feedback from IT professionals. Here's one that's rather tepid and expects Linux to be more cost-effective over the next five years. Hmm...why aren't there more? I look through the first 100 articles Google presented when searching for "IDC TCO linux microsoft".

At the end of the day the only "business value" I'm concerned with is for my own company. I'm agnostic in the OS wars, concerned only with what provides the best bang for the buck. Six years ago I led the charge to move away from Novell to Microsoft because they had something vital -- a platform to run the applications we needed to add value to our business. Today I believe that Linux occupies that same position. While I don't see Microsoft fading into obscurity like Novell, I do see a return to a heterogeneous network and "best of breed" for the foreseeable future.

posted by Henry Jenkins | 12/28/2002 10:43:00 PM

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