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Microsoft Windows versus Linux TCO, part 9

No operating system is an island nowadays. So, what happens to TCO when Linux and Windows are used together? Three IT managers weigh in.

While it's common to talk about operating systems in black and white – Microsoft versus Linux – most IT pros have to deal with shades of gray. Segregating platforms is just not an option.

In these letters about the total cost of operating system ownership, readers describe why they choose certain software for particular jobs. They look for the best OS to support needed applications, they say. That often means that they have to mix Windows, Linux, Unix. So, what happens to TCO in this OS melting pot?

Microsoft software doesn't rule everywhere

Submitted by Bryce Fowler

At my office, total cost of ownership for the operating system and applications is mostly irrelevant. As everyone knows, you use the best tools for a particular job.

For compatibility with our customers and the rest of the world, we use Microsoft products on the desktop. We also use Microsoft software on workstations where the engineering software requires Windows.

However, we run Linux Web servers because they're robust and secure. For sheer number-crunching power, we run Linux Beowolf clusters. We also use Linux for internal disk servers, where the ability to run a long time without rebooting is paramount. We run SGI Irix for other engineering software.

I am sitting at a Sun Sparcstation on a large Solaris secure network that has not been rebooted for more than a year.

With the current state of IT, use Microsoft for compatibility and Linux/Unix for "real" work.

Unix/Linux for work, Windows for play

Submitted by Benjamin D. Smith

Windows makes most things easy, and the difficult stuff impossible.

Linux can make some things difficult, but virtually anything is possible with training and time.

Which is better? I find Linux to be incredibly stable and easier to maintain, patch and update. I am a programmer, and *nix is an operating system by and for programmers. When I do serious work, I do it on a Unix or Linux system.

I've seen Windows situations where asp code should've worked, but it simply didn't. There is no tracing, debugging or logging that can be used to determine the reason why. And, after investing significant resources to figure out why, the system had to be reloaded, re-patched and re-installed.

On the other hand, Linux provides almost unlimited degrees of logging, error detection and problem resolution tools. Tools like gdb come in very handy when something doesn't quite work. And the system logging is unparalleled.

As a Linux systems administrator, you have to read often cryptic log files, count spaces and know many different configuration file formats and conventions. But these are generally learned after a quick search on the Internet.

Tools like Star Office provide a reasonable amount of Microsoft Office compatibility, and mail clients like KMail are as easy to use as their windows counterpart(s). Mozilla is a wonderful browser; I'm finding there are fewer and fewer reasons to go back to Windows.

When I want to play games, though, Windows still gets the call.

Every OS has its place

Submitted by Jon L. Miller

As an IT Integrator we use three major operating systems -- NetWare, Windows, Linux -- in day-to-day work. On servers, we've found we spend more time working with Windows than any other OS.

We use the following formula: NetWare is the platform for server operations, Linux for Internet operations and Windows for applications. This way we get the best of all three.

NetWare is easiest to update, followed by Linux, then Windows. Upgrade frequency: Windows most often, then Linux, and NetWare only once in a blue moon. Ease of operation: tie between NetWare and Linux. With Windows some tasks are easier, but others are more involved.

TCO: Linux wins in this department, with NetWare second and Windows, which requires heaps more hardware, third.

Support: NetWare is the winner. Configure it correctly and throw away the keys. She'll run until the cows come home. Linux is next. However, for Windows, pull up a seat, grab coffee and a box of biscuits and be prepared to do some time.

Overall, NetWare and Linux tie for first and beat Windows. This is especially true in the server arena. But in the application server arena, Windows wins hands down.


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