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Novell Assents To "Windows Is Cheaper Than Linux" 351

dyous87 points out a ZDNet article reporting that Novell has endorsed a customer's comment claiming that the total cost of ownership of Linux is higher then that of Windows. Novell and Microsoft jointly issued a press release quoting an IT guy for a UK-based bank, HSBC: "Some will be surprised to learn that our Windows environment has a lower total cost of ownership than our current Linux environment." The context of the comment makes it clear that HSBC's Linux environment has a mix of distros, and that a move to centralize around one distro — Novell's — will save money. Nevertheless, Novell's connection to this assertion is not likely to improve their reputation in the open source community.
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Novell Assents To "Windows Is Cheaper Than Linux"

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  • its a bank (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd ( 1050150 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:07PM (#18363257) Homepage
    This is coming from a bank. They probably spent ridiculous amounts of money verifying linux is secure. They probably take microsofts word for it.
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:07PM (#18363261)
    If all you want is a machine to look at spreadsheets on, there's nothing wrong with windows. Hell, for a lot of people it's fine - if you're behind a firewall, who cares? The computer is just a tool to get the job done.

    When you're looking at managing systems en masse, it's different, and it gets really different with servers - that's where microsoft's liscencing comes back to hurt them.
  • depends on the SAs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hobo sapiens ( 893427 ) <TEA minus caffeine> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:10PM (#18363325) Journal
    I think this has to do with the SAs. Shops running mostly windows servers will have windows-saavy SAs. I say if you have a good linux SA, the TCO will be less for linux. If you have windows SAs doing linux, then of course TCO for windows will be less.

    Where I work, we have had many more problems with our linux web servers than with our windows servers. I chalk it up to the fact that the team that manages our servers has WinTel in their group's name. Windows and Linux administration are two different skill sets. But somewhere along the line, someone decided that they'd rebadge a few windows SAs as linux SAs, which in my estimation, is a mistake.
  • I'm torn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:11PM (#18363363)
    On the one hand, we OSS advocates can't afford to live in a dream world. If Windows is cheaper than Linux, we need to know about it, know why, and fix it. So from that angle I'm glad MicroNovell assented to it.

    But we also know that statements like this are typically used out of context, especially by the professional liars who do advertisting for a living. Somehow, when MS runs ads talking about TCO, they'll forget to mention all of the qualifications that accompany this case study, such as the fact that it had a mixed Linux environment. So from this angle, I almost wish that MicroNovell hadn't assented at all, since it's likely to be used to mislead the general public rather than make them wiser.
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:11PM (#18363371) Homepage
    If HSBC thinks that Linux has a higher TCO than Windows, then why do they even have Linux machines?

    The only reasons I can think of are that
    • They have Linux-only apps that they can't run on Windows. (Is that likely? Perhaps someone here can shed some light on that matter.)
    • Linux has a higher TCO, but is worth it.
    • Linux had a higher TCO when using multiple distros, but after consolidating to Novell SUSE, they expect Linux's TCO to be below Windows'. TFA does focus on their moving to a single Linux distro to cut costs, but doesn't mention whether after that cut Linux will have a competitive TCO vs. Windows or not.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:14PM (#18363451) Homepage
    Actually, in my own experience I have found that any NT admin that I would want to touch a server of any sort was quite capable of quickly picking up Unix and succeeding with it. Perhaps Windows just provides a haven for idiots.
  • Re:its a bank (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phisbut ( 761268 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:20PM (#18363545)

    This is coming from a bank. They probably spent ridiculous amounts of money verifying linux is secure. They probably take microsofts word for it.

    Also, from TFA :

    "Some will be surprised to learn that our Windows environment has a lower total cost of ownership than our current Linux environment."
    HSBC claims it will achieve cost savings by reducing the number of Linux distributions it uses

    So basically, they're saying it costs more to manage several different distributions of Linux than a single "distribution" of Windows... Well d'uhh. How about migrating all their Linux boxes to one distro, and then telling us it's harder to manage.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:20PM (#18363553)
    It's not hard to find specific cases where Windows is cheaper. The problem is when people use specific instances of cheaper TCO using linux or Windows to generalize which one is cheaper for other cases. It is easy to find specific cases where linux is the better option and others where Windows makes more sense. Finding examples however does not answer the question of which is more cost effective in general. I'm not sure there is a good way to answer that other than to assume that companies are rational enterprises and that they will gravitate over time towards to most cost effective solution. Installed base size might be the best available (albeit highly imperfect) measure if you accept the above premise. If linux is growing in market share, that might be rationally construed as evidence that companies are finding the TCO of linux to be lower. It's not the only factor of course but I think it is a reasonable inference.

    For the desktop machines in my company which was cheaper depended entirely upon how we used the machines. We ran our servers on SuSE linux but for the desktop machines we needed specific applications where the linux alternatives were sufficiently inferior as to make them not cost effective. For our server needs there was no comparison, linux was vastly more cost effective. TCO is specific to the needs of the organization and/or individuals using the product. Its going to differ on a case by case basis and we would be foolish to generalize our needs to that of the IT community at large.
  • by Goeland86 ( 741690 ) <goeland86 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:20PM (#18363563) Homepage
    Exactly. Any decent linux SA will also have a higher pay as well, because it's not as common a skill as windows SA. Again, stereotyping here, but windows SAs hate the command line in general and keep their skills at "point and tick the right box, restart".
    If you count the cost of your SA's pay, then yes, I would expect the TCO of linux to be a tad higher, if you omit the cost of windows licenses on the other side. Linux/*nix SAs in general know more of the underlying OS than their windows counterparts do, it's just a fact because of how the system works. Where windows provides GUIs for all aspects of configuration, *nix provides .conf files that you can edit by hand and get exactly the configuration you want in just the same amount of time, and with Linux, you don't need to reboot, just restart the service. More efficient and faster! Not user-friendly for a granny's desktop, but for a SA, whose very job it is to make sure everything's configured right, it is.
    I haven't seen Vista, but XP and the little bit I've seen of Server 2003 all seemed very GUI based to me. There was an article about Windows finally receiving a decent command-line utility. Is Vista Pro going to get it so that SAs can actually do linux-style administration? Or is everything still going to be a mix of .ini files and registry keys to be activated using a GUI?
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:22PM (#18363593) Homepage
    Not that long ago, there was an article about the cost of 0wnership (that first letter is a zero, not an o). It basically stated that it was cheaper to take control over a Windows computer than a Linux, and that by implication, it was more expensive to provide proper security for Windows than for Linux.

    I wonder if Novel fairily included the higher cost to make a Windows system as secure as a Linux is.

    Now, please note that much of that security is based on "security by unpopularity". However, if Linux were to become more popular, then the costs to find trained people and to pay them to support Linux would drop, probably just as much as the security costs went up.

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:26PM (#18363645)
    except with windows I'm being forced to spend a few hundred bucks to upgrade to Vista (either now or later), plus another thousand on hardware capable of running the Vista in business context, plus maybe some retraining
  • by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:33PM (#18363747) Journal
    It has little to do with faithfulness or whatever other tortured metaphors may apply with respect to the open source community. To me, it has nothing to do with open source: I've lost faith in Novell because their "partner" has them talking down their own product. That's all I gotta say about that.

  • TCO calculations (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Down_in_the_Park ( 721993 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:34PM (#18363781)
    Great, now we know that the TCO for a mixed Linux environment is higher than for Windows. And what does it mean?

    Did they calculated the costs by taking the productivity of their personal into account, the increased security risks and possible costs for disaster recovery ( like an employee responsible for account creation, who had a keylogger installed, yesterday news 0215 [])?

    What does it really mean, if you don't get the details of the entire installation and their calculation? Training people on new software is certainly the biggest costs, training people on a closed source system just means that security is controlled somewhere else and that users will not understand, can not understand and will make errors, which put your business at risk.

    Sure, Linux can be attacked as well, but once there is a critical bug known, you can react by getting a patch, disable that part or write your patch yourself (not that I could do it, but a programmer employed by a bank...)

    Much better than a "patch/nopatch tuesday".
  • by purpleraison ( 1042004 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:38PM (#18363837) Homepage Journal

    If I am capable of installing Linux on an existing computer that is longer capable of running Windows because it is so bulky, how can it be more expensive?

    The answer is: Running Linux isn't more expensive. In fact, it is less expensive. This does not prevent people from making the flawed and misleading argument that on a corporate level it is more expensive because people need to be trained to use Linux, whereas they are already familiar with Windows.

    This is a logical fallacy at best, and deliberate misdirection at worst. The fact is, there are a lot of people who are very skilled with Linux who can provide excellent support for a corporate infrasrtucture. In reality, people generally need to be trained with Windows as well. The honest truth is the cost is about the same on the support side, and less expensive when it comes to software and equipment.

    Of course, that's just my 2

  • FREE Software (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:41PM (#18363925)
    Suse is NOT free. RedHat is NOT free.

    I'm quite sure it would be a different story if they had used a non-parasitic distribution. Novell will NEVER save you money.

    Slackware or FreeBSD, is another matter entirely.

    (TFA is slashdotted, or incompatible with dial-up. I could not view it. I am assuming they are using non-free Linux distributions. Oh, no wait, there it is 5 minutes later... 6 minutes total for the page to download.)

    Well now that I can see TFA, they do not say what distributions they are curretnly using, but I can pretty much guarantee that they are not using FOSS given the statement made that 'Windows cheaper than Linux'.

    Stupidity is its own punishment.
  • Look at the TCO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cyberkahn ( 398201 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:45PM (#18364005) Homepage
    I have to disagree. After you purchase Windows then start adding on all of the other necessary software to run a enterprise Windows environment such as Ghost, Backup Exec, Disk keeper etc. and then tell me if it is cheaper than Linux.
  • by ( 1070006 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:46PM (#18364031) Homepage
    Let me quote two Gartner studies:

    IT services for open-source software represent 1.2% or $2.3 billion of the addressable 2006 North American IT services market.
    - Report Highlight for Dataquest Insight: Open-Source Software IT Services, North America, 2005-2010

    Across all organizations, one-fifth say they use OSS. As few as 17 percent of midsize and large respondent organizations say they use OSS, and 28 percent of organizations of 500 to 2,499 employees claim they use OSS.
    - User Survey Report: Open-Source and Linux Software Support Services, North America, 2006

    OSS services account for 1.2% of the IT budget, yet 20% of larger companies use OSS? So worst case, if less than 6% of the average company's software is OSS, then MS/NV are correct. If greater than 6% is OSS, then they are obviously wrong - due to OSS's relatively small market share.
  • by iPaul ( 559200 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:48PM (#18364077) Homepage
    Computers have a higher TCO than empty boxes. Computers consume electricity, while empty boxes consume none. Computers require staffing and software in order to be useful. Empty boxes require no software or staff. While it's true that employees are unable to do any work with empty boxes, this can save companies billions of dollars a year in payroll, as they do not have to hire employees. Also, there are significant savings because it is difficult to commit accounting fraud, or other white collar crimes with an empty box.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:59PM (#18364283)
    The TCO of Using Windows can and often is lower then the TCO of using Linux. But Linux can have a lower TCO then windows too. It depends on how you use them, and what you use them for. If you are going to do work the same way as you done in the past with running application localy on your system. Then Windows is the best solution. If you are going to have mostly all web/terminal based application, Then Linux will Win. Windows wins in a distributed enviroment where people have greater atonomy over their Computers, Linux works best in a situation where there is a few experts maintainging the systems and and the users are stuck with what they have. Both have there Ups and Downs but if you have a different configuration then there is a lower TCO. A good Linux enviroment will be a better TCO then a Bad Windows enviroment and vice versa if a Well planned windows enviroment is set up vs a crummy Linux enviroment then Windows will win. The problem is when companies switch to Linux from windows or try to switch they normally do poorly because they work in a windows mindset. Unix companies who switch to Linux are normally much more successful and reap a large cost savings.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:01PM (#18364327)
    I did some consulting work for HSBC a few years ago when they were first installing Linux systems, and the problems they were having with Windows (unable to stay up and running for more than a few days at a time, instability while running critical Java apps, and some other major problems) was the reason they started switching servers over to Linux. Sounds to me that since I left, they have stopped updating their Linux systems (they used Redhat when I was there) and are now feeling the crunch of allowing stable systems to go unmanaged for too long.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:03PM (#18364345)
    Well Novell, you didn't really think you could jump in the sack with MS and keep your dignity did you?
  • by beckerist ( 985855 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:04PM (#18364361) Homepage
    Considering it's basically the Chinese National Bank [], and that Lenovo and Microsoft just struck a deal [] this "insightfulness" has the potential to be very business driven... Of course, it could be pure coincidence.
  • by Sfing_ter ( 99478 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:05PM (#18364393) Homepage Journal
    it's all the time spent by admins getting mp3s, wmvs and wmas to play for the managers; by the employees trying to figure out how to install weatherbug and webshots; how to install their favorite "free" game; and why won't mp3s play on this stupid os.... where is windows media player????
  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:07PM (#18364419)
    They were paid over 400 Million dollars to get into bed with Microsoft. If I paid a whore that much money I'd expect a lot too.
  • by thewils ( 463314 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:30PM (#18364799) Journal
    ...and I'll hazard a guess that you didn't have to reboot any of them either...
  • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:42PM (#18365007)
    Ever look at a piece of modern art and think, "my kid could do that in five minutes?" Ever think why theater is too out in left field for you? Well there is a strong connection between modern art and Open Source.

    Open source works and is great, but lets face the facts people in the open source community are not willing to pay money for software, or even software support. They expect it for free. Look at the bottom line of Redhat vs any closed source company. Their bottom lines are massively different.

    So Novell, like the modern art community is saying and doing the things that PAYING CUSTOMERS or PAYING PATRONS expect. Modern art is not for the benefit of the general community because the general community does not buy art. Hence artists when they hear, "oh my kid can do this in five minutes" will laugh in your face because you critique as a non-paying person is completely irrelevant. Your opinion does not matter in the least. Likewise I think with Novell and Open Source growing apart, I think Novell is saying, "hey you folks are not paying the bills thus we are going to do what is best for our clients."

    I can't blame them...
  • Completely wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:49PM (#18365099)
    "Novell will NEVER save you money."

    I'm sorry, but this is completely wrong. I don't like Suse's SLES or the company, based on their recent stupidity, but to suggest there's never a case where this expensive distro is to forget how bad Windows is for administration. If you have a hundred Suse boxes, that's gonna run you something like $35k a year. After spending that, you can (in some cases) get by with one $75k admin running the whole show. Now if they're doing a bunch of things, you will probably need another admin, but if it's a homogeneous group of machines doing something simple, it can definitely fall out that way.

    A Windows admin will usually be a bit cheaper, but A) you still have to pay for server licenses, and B) There is NO WAY a single guy can run all those boxes. I'll defer to people who have been in this situation, but I suspect you'd need three guys to keep a hundred windows server farm from imploding.

    You can stump for free distros (I very much believe that's the way to go) but a blanket statement like "Novell will NEVER save you money." is nutty and undermines your entire message.

    Meanwhile parasitic? Hardly. These guys spend money on R&D. The money comes from corporations. Yes, they skim money from that process, but both Novell and RedHat add value which we all benefit from. Think of it this way: they get a cut as middlemen, and the service they provide is getting Ford and Chase and Shell Oil (and whoever else has more money than you or me) to PAY FOR LINUX DEVELOPMENT. That's doing well while doing good, and you should be all for it.

    TCO calculations here are not because they pay for their distros, it's because they have no CLUE what they're doing. They didn't hire good Linux admins, so they lose. Probably they handed Linux boxes to Windows admins, and they automated almost nothing. TCO for Linux can be WAY lower than Windows, but if you run Linux like windows, and deal with it like windows, it won't be lower.

    Bringing us to your last line "Stupidity is its own punishment." -- I agree. Both for HSBC and Novell, here. But as they blunder forward, they step on everything we've planted. We suffer too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2007 @02:00PM (#18365219)
    Something tells me you've never heard of WSUS (or SMS). 15 minutes to patch your boxes is 15 more than I've spend updating mine. It's *FULLY AUTOMATED* using WSUS. Oh, also, pushing updates to your clients take just as much time (none at all). I can push hundreds of updates to 2000 boxes in all of 0 minutes of my time.

    The only thing that might be time consuming is deciding which patches you want to push or not, which would take just as long on linux. Once they're approved by you, they'll get there automagically.

    Also, this way patches are downloaded just once from MS. Then you can have your WSUS sync/replicate (across sites or what not), and your boxes update from that (you obviously don't want 2000 boxes to hit windows update at once across an expensive T3 - what a waste of expensive bandwidth would that be). It's a pretty good system overall. WSUS 3 is in beta, and it's quite nice.

    We can also push apps to workstations (using GPO and what not) in no time at all either. Set it up once, and just let it happen.

    Linux is nice for many things, but it's not better in every single way for everything...

    I'm sure there's ways or perhaps equivalents to Active Directory (OpenLDAP?), Exchange, WSUS/SMS and all that (and things like Samba for serving files), but I doubt it's easy to get it all up and working. It's deceivingly simple to get all this working under windows (especially with Small Business Server).
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @02:23PM (#18365537) Homepage
    No, Novell is just a crass sellout.

    They aren't doing what's best for their clients. They are doing what they percieve to be best for their shareholders. In this respect they are just a mirror image of Microsoft.

    Novell doesn't really care about the product or the customer.

    As a paying customer of SLES, this alliance for the purpose of slander does squat for me.
  • by CasperIV ( 1013029 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:03PM (#18366025)
    Getting the IT department to agree means nothing. It's a matter of picking one and mandating it. Of course, your argument goes around the fact that you don't have a choice with Windows, you better pick the one MS will continue to support (for a couple years anyway). If they don't have a mandate and half the systems are running XP, some running 2000, and some running 98, do you think the overhead is lower? Of course not, because they mandated what version people would be running.

    This whole debate is a joke, statistics will say anything you want them to say. If I wanted Windows cost more then linux I would just combine factors that are negatives for Windows such as virus issues, required third party apps, security fixes, hardware upgrades required for vista, etc. In the end I could come back with a statistic that shows Windows is the cause of Global Warming if I really wanted to. Remember, statistics mean nothing unless you check the agenda behind the research.
  • Re:its a bank (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fourchannel ( 946359 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:18PM (#18366263) Homepage
    No,figures don't lie. But figures without a context are useless.

    For example, I saw this commercial that said "Over 60% of Americans are now in debt". Which is a true statement. But when he used the word 'now' it makes sound like an urgent problem. like saying, "It's now Thursday."

    But 60% of Americans in debt?? Oh wait, they were counting people who had a mortgage on a house, which most people don't think of as debt, but simply making payments on the loan.

    Twisted out of context to hell and back? You betcha! Besides, everyone knows it's cheaper to run windows than linux. With windows, you sell your soul to microsoft as a down payment, thereby lowering the overall cost of mean ownership.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser