A new white paper from analyst IDC has reported that Windows 2000 represents a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than Linux over a five-year period.
The Microsoft-sponsored paper, entitled Windows 2000 versus Linux in enterprising computing: an assessment of business value in selected workloads, concluded Windows 2000 would give better value in four out of the five categories selected.
But some resellers were scornful of the report, which represented staffing costs as 62.2 per cent of the total and showed Linux staff as 30 per cent more expensive.
Simon Welch, group marketing manager at Sun Unix and Linux systems distributor Clarity Distribution, said: "You can dress figures up any way you like. But certainly for Windows licensing there's an ongoing expense."
"Everybody knows you have to go on paying money for upgrades unless you switch away from Microsoft," he said, adding that he thought Linux was much easier to support, while the cost of a Microsoft certified engineer was high.
Mike Lawrence, managing director of Hewlett Packard reseller Bentpenny, which supplies both Windows and Linux systems, was even more vocal, saying Microsoft engineer certification was just another way of making money for Microsoft.
"I feel quite strongly about this. Linux training is probably a lot less than Windows. Linux is at least open. Microsoft Windows is a huge amorphous mess. Source code is not available and help is not available except from Microsoft."
IDC's findings resulted from telephone interviews with 104 North American companies, most of whom had Windows 2000/NT, Linux and Unix.
Out of the five categories Windows scored anything from 11-22 per cent better in four - network infrastructure, file serving, print serving and security applications - with Linux coming out ahead by six per cent for web serving.
IDC put the higher staffing costs down partly to the relative immaturity of Linux and more readily available skilled IT professionals with in-depth Windows knowledge on the open market.
But Lawrence said that his main Linux expert had spent only 20 hours training at college to learn Linux, followed by "a bit of fiddling at home".
In its conclusions, the IDC paper questioned whether Linux could approach the level of integration achieved by Microsoft now or match its rapidly developing product suite.
It also warned the Linux community to fight against the fragmentation that undermined Unix two decades ago.
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