Analysts, resellers and developers have all questioned the findings of IDC's Microsoft-sponsored paper which concluded that Windows is better value than Linux over a five-year period.
The paper was roundly criticised, after claiming that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for Linux is higher than for Windows.
It suggested that Linux staff costs, which IDC weighted as 62.2 per cent of the TCO, were 30 per cent higher than for Windows.
"I would not see why it would cost 30 per cent more to employ a Linux specialist," said Andy Butler, vice president at analyst Gartner. "But there is more complexity when you have a mixed Windows and Linux environment."
There is a general lack of highly skilled staff, while Windows is now splitting into several different markets such as high availability clusters and Windows Datacenter, potentially raising staffing costs, he said.
By contrast, in many parts of the world, Linux experts are being "churned out of academia", which will reduce skills costs, added Butler.
But Al Gillen, IDC's system software research director, and co-author of the report, commented: "It wasn't that one Linux person costs 30 per cent more but that costs could be as much as 30 per cent higher for the staffing element.
"It might take three people to support a Linux server, but two for Windows."
Users interviewed were not running Windows Datacenter, he said.
Linux and Windows resellers were equally dismissive. "You can dress figures up any way you like but, certainly for Windows licensing, there's an ongoing expense," explained Simon Welch, group marketing manager at Sun Unix and Linux systems distributor Clarity Distribution.
"Everybody knows that you have to go on paying money for upgrades unless you switch away from Microsoft," he said, adding that the cost of a Microsoft certified engineer is high.
Mike Lawrence, managing director of Hewlett Packard reseller Bentpenny, which supplies both Windows and Linux systems, agreed, stating that engineer certification is just another way of making money for Microsoft.
"Linux training is probably a lot less than Windows. Linux is at least open. Windows is a huge amorphous mess. Source code is not available and help is not available except from Microsoft," he said.
David Lambert, software consultant at DRL Development, a Windows-based developer which recently branched out to Linux and open source, pointed to holes in the research.
"Were Microsoft users asked about the costs of installing additional antivirus software and firewall hardware/software because of the greater vulnerability of Windows 2000 Server?" he asked.
"How about the costs of cleaning up infected systems? How much was spent guarding against worms, viruses and other security breach issues?"
But Gillen maintained that licensing and patch installation were taken into account. Microsoft licensing is typically four to seven times higher but, for the security workload, Linux came out higher, he said.
Staunchly defending the findings, he added: "IDC has complete confidence in what it has produced.
"The results vary from workload to workload. When you look at the data behind this, it's pretty easy to rationalise where the costs are."
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