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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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  • RTFA, again (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bbsguru ( 586178 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:10PM (#18363329) Homepage Journal
    In the article he is comparing the cost of a varied and diverse *nix mashup with a comparatively homogeneous Windows world. Sure, support a couple of versions of Windows versus 12 variants of Linux? Yep, cheaper. Fine. But the POINT is that standardizing on one Linux Will Save Money, compared to many versions, OR compared to Windows.
  • Re:its a bank (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:11PM (#18363377) Journal
    They probably got a ridiculous discount on Micro$oft licenses.

    Anywho, I find most all TCO calculations to be dubious and akin to damned lies.
  • by Normal Dan ( 1053064 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:12PM (#18363381)
    We have one Windows machine here used for testing. The rest are Linux. Technically all of these Linux machines cost more than that one Windows machine. So I suppose I too could say my Windows environment costs less than my Linux environment.
  • zzz (Score:5, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:12PM (#18363409) Homepage Journal
    in some environments, windows makes more sense than linux

    in other environments, linux makes more sense than windows

    the truth is bland and unexciting

    linux zealots and microsoft ad execs may have more exciting things to say on the subject, but they're just deluded or lying
  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:23PM (#18363625) Journal
    a statement.

    TCO of Linux being higher than Windows wouldn't completely surprise me given my own personal experience with the OS, though hearing other people's experiences, I would not bet on either outcome. It, in several of it's incarnations, has given me more grief than almost any other OS I've used/administrated (there's only one worse I can think of, sorry /.ers, it's not Windows).

    That being said, I'd still like to know -
    is this weighted per machine on comparison, or per desktop in one set, per server in another, or is it just overall -
    - If it's the latter, than TCO will be best on whatever system is used least.
    - If it's the per server/per desktop, then it's a good measure
    - If it's per machine, whichever has the highest desktop:server would probably win, so it's again unfair/biased.

    Also, as it's stated, there are multiple distros; with how differently things are done, I wouldn't except a low TCO for multiple distros. My experience stems from 4 major distributions, totalling maybe 10-12 versions, the administration of different distros seems to be quite high, making multi-distro administration also a challange. That right there tells me this is biased against Linux.

    Finally, learning cost: Learning is a sunk cost, and not an over-time cost. Was this TCO over the first year, or was it over a longer time? Did it involve a time-related cost projection? This is relevant because most of the users would have come in knowing how things were done in Windows, but not Linux, some of the admins may have even come in that way. The initial training cost would have been comparatively high compared to the new employee training cost - another VERY important factor that most likely biased this report against Linux. Anyone know if they actually put up facts about this?

    A lot of words said and conclusions made in TFA, but at the end of the day, I don't feel any more educated than before - they just gave no useful or novel (/new/ not book or corporation) data.

  • Partly true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:25PM (#18363641) Journal
    As with many things, when you save money it doesn't necessarily mean you've got more "money in the bank" it just means you have more to spend on other things. Where I work we're a mixed windows/linux shop, and moving more towards the linux/FOSS route all the time.

    Does that mean money saved overall, no. What it does mean is that money that would have been spent on X (software licenses, etc), is now spend on other stuff (aging infrastructure, upgraded network, etc and lots of other things that would have otherwise stay or been delayed in upgrading). There will always be places to dump cash, and what most of these studies don't seem to incorporate into the "studies" is that dollar for dollar, the spending might be the same or more for FOSS, but the results might not be the same nor what the money was spend on.
  • by ( 660144 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:26PM (#18363649) Homepage
    The point being?
  • by hobo sapiens ( 893427 ) <ELIOT minus poet> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:30PM (#18363703) Journal
    Maybe, but there are subtleties between the two OS. For example, our web server was just appearing to be drinking up memory. Forgive me if I get my facts wrong, after all I am just a web developer and not an expert SA, but I think I remember what part of our problem was: On linux, memory is handled differently. All of it is allocated but not necessarily committed. On windows, memory won't appear to be used if it is not committed. So instead of looking at memory consumption, we should have been looking at how much paging is taking place on our linux boxes and adjusting the settings accordingly. IIRC, our SA was trying to figure out why, every time he allocated more memory, it would be consumed just as quickly. He was in a Windows mindset. It took a *real* Linux SA to point out that excessive paging was the real problem in our situation. Again, not an SA, so not sure if I said what I said correctly, but that was the gist of it.

    I guess my original post should be restated a bit: windows admins can handle linux just fine -- until it comes time to optimize or do some serious troubleshooting. That's when a lack of intimate knowlegde about the subtle differences between the two OS can come into play. But for general administration, you are probably right though.
  • Mod AC up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:32PM (#18363745) Journal
    HSBC is the very same bank that is most heavily exposed to the subprime market right now, which is under a lot of stress, needless to say. When I read the summary, I was thinking, "Yeah, HSBC sure knows how to save money..."
  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:33PM (#18363759)
    It's hard to take anything novl claims about msft seriously. This seems like more bought-and-paid-for msft brown-nosing. Very similar to the all the bogus "think tanks" that msft bought, or all of silly msft sponsored astro-turfing, or all the phoney-baloney msft sponsored TCO studies, or all the msft paid analysts that gush over msft. And doesn't msft pay bloggers, and message board posters?

    Frankly, I don't see how any reasonably well informed person can believe anything positive published about msft. Msft pays for good PR in every way imaginable.
  • you forgot: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:36PM (#18363811) Journal
    • They couldn't find enough data to make an educated decision so they tried to gather it themselves
    • They found evidence that they though was convincing, so migrated, and then found out otherwise

    Those are two more valid possibilities.
  • by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:39PM (#18363875)

    I wouldn't put much faith in the ability of HSBC to manage anything IT related. I work for a company selling trading software to top tier banks, many of them based in the UK. Overall, their IT staff are useless. Their seems to be two type of bank IT staffer - the permanent staff hired straight out of college, with no real world experience and no chance of acquiring any because the second kind of staffer, the contractors, do as little as possible but ensure their own job security by keeping the permies as ill-informed as possible.

    This may sound cynical, but it is all too true. As an example, we had an IT person from one bank try to apply an update to their system by first untarring it on Windows and FTP'ing each file in turn to the Unix box. In the process they managed to change the case of all the files. This was despite the release notes (complete with cut 'n' paste, step by step instructions) telling them to apply the patch by untarring it on the Unix box.

    Another example is a client who has switched from HP-UX to Solaris and now to Linux within the space of a year. With that kind of regular platform jumping it's no wonder this clients Windows TCO is lower than the one for Unix.

  • Re:So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by radish ( 98371 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:40PM (#18363887) Homepage
    Or, the Linux TCO - whilst higher than Windows - is lower than Solaris/SPARC. That's why _we_ have a Linux environment - it doesn't compete with Windows, it competes with Sun.
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:49PM (#18364101)
    Why should it not be true? What part of OSS guarantees a lower cost for enterprise? The code is free and open, thats the long and short of it. If it costs more to implement using current business practices, methods, testing, support, yadda yadda compared to a commercial product, I still fail to see the problem.

    The benefits of OSS is that its free and open, not that its cheap for some bank to use compared to windows. MS may be completely right. I'm certain depending on the environment and what "ownership" consists of, services, level of support, etc it may just be a wash and that money spent on the initial purchase of the OS is the lowest long term cost.
  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @12:54PM (#18364179)
    I have found depending on what you are trying to do, the cost and support level vary considerably between the systems.

    On the other side of the coin is many data recovery applications where the TCO is much less on Linux.

    A prime example I had a friend bring be a dead laptop.. Won't even boot into the BIOS. Please recover my documents..

    In Windows it requires finding an adaptor so you can put in both hard drives in one laptop at the same time and configure the drive as a second drive, etc..

    In my case I put the drive in my laptop, booted Ubuntu off the CD. Mounted the drive and copied the My_Documents folder to a network share. Zero extra cost, no configuration (auto found my network and got an address).

    I needed to burn an ISO to make a Ubuntu CD. In Windows the aparant choice is to upgrade the limited function CD burning software bundled with the machine or search online for free software (possibly trojan), scan it for viruses (purchased subscription application) and then burn a CD. On a Ubuntu machine, simply right click on the ISO and chose burn to CD.

    To be fair, on the flip side of the coin, I do some MIDI stuff and DMX512 lighting. There are tons of free applications for Windows and only limited support on Linux. So the TCO study to be unbiased would point out there are applications where both have their high points. That is why I have a Windows machine and a Ubuntu machine and Live CD's for laptop data recovery.

    In the enterprise where I work, It's a Windows environment because of the platform the vendors write for for our customised applications and embedded control and for hardware support of the same. I don't see any easy migration path away from the entrenched environment any time soon.

    At home and on the desktop and on some fileservers and network appliances, it's a mixed environment is the lowest TCO. My Router and my Fileserver and my Printservers are all Linux based.
  • Do they use Windows? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Himring ( 646324 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:30PM (#18364797) Homepage Journal
    How are they using windows? Did they not purchase the $4k DST 'patch' (yes, a patch) to fix Exchange's DST issue? Are they managing 1000s of workstations across an enterprise with something like ScriptLogic's Desktop Authority, which makes the hell of the broken Active Directory workable? There are un-foreseen costs attached. You pay one time for Windows, and then many times over for antivirus, directory services management, patch management, on and on. I honestly cannot believe Novell said this, especially when NDS was twice the directory service AD is today.

    The costs to buy everything needed to actually make a Windows network, 'work' are exponential when factoring in all of the third party pieces that are ABSOLUTELY necessary to make an distributed network function well.

  • by yogi ( 3827 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @01:40PM (#18364985) Homepage
    I'm not at HSBC in London, but I'm not a million miles away, and I'm at another one of those London city like institutions. Having traversed a few of these places, I'll say a few things:

    Firstly, every bank I know uses Windows on the desktop, bar one small exception with Mac. Linux is a feature in the data center, along with Windows, Solaris and occasionally some bigger iron. How much effort is put into support and management for a box depends on it's role. The really important servers ( ie. those in the datacenter ) get the backups, and extra firewalls, and super extra security, and fault tolerant failovers, and SCSI RAID arrays and all the other expensive stuff. They are also more likely to be one-offs.

    The key to keeping TCO down is to keep machines standard. For example, desktop machines have a standard build with some mechanism to install/update applications automatically ( think apt-get for windows? ). The servers are not so standard. It probably doesn't help that HSBC have multiple Linux Distros. Pick one, and go with it. You should really have no more that two versions of an operating system around. eg. where I am now, we have NT4 and are upgrading to XP ( did you think we'd all gone to Vista in the Fortune 500 -- haha! ). We have Solaris 8, migrating to Solaris 10. On top of this, the hardware varies. Some servers are built to maximize GFlop/$. The dataservers revolve around TpM etc.. A compute engine needs less love and care than a database. Are we comparing like with like: I'd be pretty surpised if the 4 way Oracle dataserver running linux and half the bank's trading operations is not more expensive than a windows desktop.

    The article points out that by moving to a single distro, they will lower their Linux TCO, which is true. The blanket "Windows TCO is lower than Linux TCO" needs to be explained and expanded before it becomes useful. ( That won't happen -- HSBC wouldn't release those numbers ).
  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @02:48PM (#18365815)
    Just to clarify, since its published group history doesn't make it clear, the bank was founded in Hong Kong 140 years ago by Scottish white men. To this day, most of the Board members are white men of Scottish ancestry. For some interesting close to the truth fiction regarding the original creation of that bank, and the kind of Scottish men we're talking about -- read "The Noble House" by James Clavell (it's a very good novel -- that you won't want to put down once started).
  • by Daishiman ( 698845 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:58PM (#18366819)


    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.

    That is the most nonsensical "connection" I've ever heard of.

    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.

    Red Hat:
    Revenue $278.3 million USD (2006)
    Employees ~1700 (2006)
    Net income $156.85 Million USD (2006)
    Employees 16,000 (2006) [1]

    Gee, comparing to a "closed source company", Red Hat seems to be doing pretty well, especially considering its small size versus behemoths like HP and or Microsoft, for whom operating systems are just one area of revenue and which have been established for far longer.

    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."

    Novell did nothing that would put even themselves in a better position to prospective clients. There is a massive difference between paying Linux users and desktop home users. Paying customers are coming from a UNIX background where you pay for everything much like Microsoft. Support is one area where it's been shown time and again that money can be made in FOSS. The problem here looks more like an incompetent IT department and a press release that's comparing apples to orangles.

    BTW, You, sir, evidently know squat about modern and contemporary art and even less about Open Source or real world Linux use in the business.

  • Re:its a bank (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2007 @06:12PM (#18368637)
    Sorry, have to post as AC as this violates the NDA I signed in good faith... lol...

    Few outside HSBC are aware of the massive struggle that took place between HSBC and MS over the enterprise licensing agreement in 2005/2006. You need to realize that there is enterprise licensing and then there is Enterprise Licensing for a nearly 2 *trillion* dollar multinational. HSBC is that big.

    When the previous agreement expired in 2005 (and in the months leading up to the expiry), Microsoft took a pretty hard line, issuing all sorts of memos about the "new licensing structure" which of course worked out to HUGE increases in enterprise agreements (and not just for HSBC, for the whole world - remember that?). HSBC also went in hard, even going so far is to make a global "announcement" that our new global standard for server architecture would be linux-based. I remember running complete bullsh*t "pilots" of applications which were obviously purely for the benefit of our local MS/VAR boys. Now there was never any real threat of a full-on conversion but just think about the impact of such a statement from one of the world's largest technology purchasers. Those of you involved in any sort of vendor renewal will be familiar with this sort of mexican standoff.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find out that as the final hand$hake took place between MS and GroupHQ, the following exchanage took place:

      - MS guy: "Ohbytheway you really killed us with that whole switch-to-linux thing... Citigroup and GE renew in the next few years... would you mind issuing some sort of statement that downplays/refutes/minimizes your earlier linux announcements?"
      - HSBC guy: "Sure, how about 'Upon further review, TCO for linux >>> TCO for MS'?"
      - MS guy: "That'll do."

    Oh and for those who think that HSBC is "just a bank" because it isn't quite so dominant in the US, you really have no idea.
  • Automated? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:50PM (#18370137) Journal
    Stick some apt-get commands in cron. You're done.

    Oh, and let's not forget -- these are not just kernel updates. It's not even comparable to a Windows Update from MS -- every single piece of software on the machine is controlled by package management. Everything -- from a word processor to a web browser to a game to a mailserver to some random webapp that was nice enough to provide a package -- all of those will automatically be updated, and in the same place, with the same local cache (apt-proxy as one example).

    Or use a distributed filesystem -- you can run the entire OS off the network. Not a thin client, but any change you make, every config file tweak you do, is instantly propagated over the network. This is actually pretty easy to set up... on Linux. I don't even know if it's possible to boot Windows off a network.

    And by the way, 15 minutes of admin time is nothing when you consider other possible time sinks. I have to spend that 15 minutes maybe once a week, if I feel like it, and I really don't have to do much else. How much time do you spend?
  • Re:its a bank (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2007 @03:58AM (#18372257)
    Just a side comment, but "the banker's son" is not completly wrong, but in my case the other way .

    Happened to me, where I was called in to consult on Linux porting, in the last minute before the endproduct needed delivery to a national chain of stores. What had happened? The manager in charge of the Linux port (which was demanded by the customer), had used his half-Linux-literate son to help out with the port. Bad (or Good) luck for him was the fact that his son had to serve his military service, and so he had to find an external expert.

    btw, Bad luck => he had to pay for me. Good luck => Well, his son was a clear case of complete moron. Starting with the fact that these guys had not even a working Makefile or build system. When Joe was sick, nobody else in the company knew how to manually compile Joe's .o files. Add to this the fun that the Linux boxes used for developers where 99.99% disc clones. IP addresses changed, but nobody bothered to change even the hostnames. Cool if one has to run an ifconfig to figure out which host on is connected to, devel@localhost doesn't tell one much.

    So now the big question. Do you think that happened in some mom&pop shop without resources, or in a software house part of one of the biggest international companies doing military, air&space, cars, and whatever else. (was just the first things that came to mind *g*).

    If you put your money on the mom&pop shop, well, you can use paypal to wire me the money :)


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