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Study: Windows Reputation Gets a Lift

Microsoft made strides among customers this year in improving the image of Windows servers against Linux servers on security, quality, performance and reliability, according to a new independent study.

The Yankee Group report, "Linux-Windows 2005 TCO Comparison Survey," is based on a March poll of 509 organizations spanning North American vertical markets and government agencies.

According to the poll, 88 percent of respondents reported that the quality, performance and reliability of Windows was equal to or better than Linux. That figure is up 12 percentage points from last year's finding of 76 percent.

On security, Windows' image improvement was even more dramatic. On a scale of 1 to 10, users nearly doubled Windows' security rating to 7.6. They rated Linux' security at 8.3, about the same as a year ago, making the difference between the two much less.

"Server operating systems are largely commoditized," Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio said in describing the report. "Corporate users report a high degree of satisfaction with the baseline performance and reliability of all of the major server operating systems -- Linux, Windows and Unix. Today, applications and services are the primary drivers that positively or negatively influence TCO costs, advantages and risks."

DiDio attributed Windows' image enhancement to Microsoft's efforts to harden Windows Server 2003; the change in the patch releases to a monthly cycle; and the free patch management service for Windows, currently named Windows Server Update Services. Respondents reported on average spending 80 percent less time handling Windows patches than in past surveys.

Neutralization of perceived differences between the operating systems will make it hard for Linux to expand market share given Microsoft's extensive installed base, according to DiDio. Among organizations Yankee Group surveyed, Windows accounted for about 73 percent of servers and Linux accounted for about 15 percent of servers. About 60 percent of all companies surveyed used Linux servers in some way.

While Linux didn't increase its presence from the 2004 to 2005 surveys, the Yankee Group contends the open-source server operating system is gaining momentum as a complementary server in Windows networks. More than 50 percent of companies surveyed indicated plans to install more Linux servers next to existing Windows operating systems.

Success has brought Linux some of the same problems Microsoft faced. For one, users complained of spending more time on patching Linux servers than they did in the past. Recovery time from a security attack was 30 percent longer for Linux servers than for similar Windows servers, respondents reported. The respondents said Linux servers required 17 hours on average to recover compared to 13.2 hours for Windows servers.

On the other hand, Windows server downtime costs were reported as two to three times higher per hour than Linux server downtime costs, largely due to the higher value of the data and applications running on the Windows servers.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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