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Vendor-funded research falls on deaf ears

IT professionals say they pay little attention to research funded by vendors. That appears to be true for a new study by Jupiter Research that rates Microsoft and its open source rivals on interoperability.

There is no evidence that IT professionals take seriously the results of research that is funded by Microsoft or any other vendor. That goes for the results of a study released this week that shows that Windows beats Linux and Unix as a platform for application integration.

In the past year, Microsoft has launched an anti-open source campaign that relies in part on the results of Redmond-funded studies, including two in the past 12 months: Last March, Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., touted Windows as being better for total cost of ownership (TCO) than Linux. Now New York-based Jupiter Research has offered the results of a study on application interoperability that says, among other things, that Windows as a platform is more interoperable than Linux or Unix.

Many customers appear to be indifferent to this tactic for establishing Windows' superiority to open source and, in particular, Linux. And it doesn't seem to matter if consultants insist that their data is pure.

"It would be better if Microsoft didn't [fund the study], because you would tend to think they'd be somewhat biased," said Jim Allen, vice president of technology at Danvers Savings Bank in Danvers, Mass., which is a Windows shop.

The study focused on technical elements and interoperability and was [in] no way specific to Microsoft's products.
Michael Gartenberg
vice presidentJupiter Research

Executives at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., in Princeton, N.J., tend to favor Linux and Unix because of the large amount of scientific computing that takes place at the pharmaceutical manufacturing company -- though there are still "thousands" of Windows servers in use at the company, an IT professional there said.

Top brass is not averse to the opinions of some industry consultants, but the fact that Microsoft paid for the Jupiter study taints it for them, said John McGlinchey, a senior platform engineer at Bristol-Myers Squibb. "They don't view any study funded by Microsoft as valid," McGlinchey said.

Jupiter's defense

For its part, Jupiter claims that even though Microsoft financed the December 2003 study, the software company had no editorial control over the material. Jupiter said that it surveyed U.S.-based companies with minimum annual revenues of $10 million in more than 20 industries. About 800 people completed the survey.

Michael Gartenberg, a Jupiter vice president and research director, said that the research stands by itself and that Microsoft had no input. "The study focused on technical elements and interoperability and was [in] no way specific to Microsoft's products," he said.

Gartenberg said that analysts have come under fire in the past when they've taken paid research and integrated it into their own research offerings, without identifying its origin. Also, in those cases, the methodology may have been unclear and the sample pool of users too small.

"But we interviewed 800 IT pros who went through our vetting process, and Microsoft is making the complete study available," Gartenberg said. "So the issue of who was the catalyst engaging the research is not an issue for us. We offer research and analysis to all comers, and we do analysis for vendors on markets that are broad. But we don't talk about the vendor and the company."

A different challenge

Microsoft's anti-Linux strategy so far seems to be about paying for "independent" studies and then pointing to results that are favorable for Redmond. Indeed, open source has provided Microsoft with a different kind of competitive challenge from what it has experienced in the past, according to one analyst.

Open source is not a company, like Intuit, AOL, Real Networks or Google -- all of which have tangled with Microsoft -- but rather a software development methodology, said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Microsoft's early responses to open source, including as calling it a cancer, were ineffective. But now that Microsoft has recognized open source as a market force, the company is gearing up to attack it on several levels, Schadler said.

"[Microsoft] has attacked it on TCO, on time to build an application, on market support, on architecture," Schadler said.

Schadler said that, while some vendors identify markets where they don't plan to compete, Microsoft won't take that route. Rather, Microsoft's worldview is that integrated software leads to ease of use and better price performance, which it views as superior to piecing together best-of-breed products.

Schadler said that he thinks both approaches will be successful. "I think in about four years that all new workloads will be 50% Windows and 50% Linux," he said.


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