Windows Gains Ground on Linux

Microsoft has had some success in improving the image of its Windows Server 2003 operating system vis-à-vis Linux

If the authors of a new study are right, there could come a time when you won’t have Windows to kick around anymore. Not that Microsoft’s Windows brand is going anywhere, of course—just that the software giant has had some success in improving the image of its Windows Server 2003 vis-à-vis Linux.

The upshot, according to a report from consultancy the Yankee Group, is that 88 percent of survey respondents said that the quality, performance, and reliability of Windows is equal to or better than that of Linux.

The results of the survey, published in a Yankee Group report entitled “Linux-Windows 2005 TCO Comparison Survey,” are based on a poll of 509 North American organizations conducted last month.

Microsoft’s performance in this year’s poll improved slightly—by 12 percent—from last year’s results, when just over three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents thought Windows Server 2003 the equal or superior of Linux.

Of course, Microsoft still trails Linux in one key respect—security. But even here, the software giant improved its standing. Asked to rate the security of Microsoft’s Windows server operating environment on a scale of one to 10, users gave Windows Server 2003 a 7.6—nearly double Microsoft’s year-ago result.

The aggregate “Linux” result, on the other hand, was 8.3—almost unchanged from last year’s result.

Yankee Group analyst Laura Didio spins the results as victories for both Microsoft and the open-source community. “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,” DiDio said.

At the same time, DiDio conceded, Microsoft’s focus on locking down Windows Server 2003 has finally started to pay off. When the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows Server operating environment debuted two years ago, it shipped with many services previously on by default services now turned off, and also featured a less-permissive default environment. Since then, Microsoft has standardized (in all but extreme cases) on a once-a-month security update cycle and has also delivered Windows Server Update Services, a free patch management service.

One upshot of this, Yankee Group found, is that respondents are spending on average 80 percent less time patching Windows systems.

Elsewhere, even though Linux didn't grow its server presence from 2004 to 2005, it is finding uptake as a complement to Windows in many environments, with more than 50 percent of companies disclosing plans to install additional Linux servers alongside existing Windows systems.

Ironically, however, the enterprise Linux distributions are starting to suffer from Windows redux: Yankee Group found that users are spending more time patching Linux servers than they did in the past. In addition, users said it takes 17 hours to recover from a Linux security incident, compared to 13.2 hours on Windows servers.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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