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Forrester: Linux development can be more costly than using Microsoft software

The Microsoft-commissioned study isn't a blanket statement about Linux, said a co-author

By Robert McMillan
September 9, 2003 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Creating and maintaining a custom Web-based application with Java and Linux is almost 40% more expensive than using Microsoft Corp.'s software, according to a Microsoft-commissioned report from Forrester Research Inc. (download PDF).
The report, released yesterday, estimated the costs of building custom J2EE and .Net applications within large and medium-size organizations. Forrester based its cost estimates on interviews with IT staff members at 12 organizations.
The study found a huge gap in software maintenance costs incurred by the two approaches. Software maintenance in a large organization was estimated at $160,000 annually for a Linux/J2EE development effort, compared with just under $46,000 for Microsoft users. In medium-size businesses, the costs were $17,775 and $7,158 respectively.
The J2EE/Linux approach involved the use of Oracle Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. software, while the Microsoft approach involved the vendor's Visual Studio .Net and SQL Server applications. The price gap was primarily the result of the difference between the prices of the BEA and Oracle software and those of Visual Studio .Net and SQL Server.
The other major factor in the cost difference was the time companies spent on software development, which was about one-third higher at J2EE/Linux companies than it was at Microsoft companies. "If you're doing these mainstream portal-style applications, you're probably going to have a faster time to market if you're using the Microsoft tool set," said John Rymer, a Forrester vice president and a co-author of the study.
Forrester estimated that the total cost of developing a custom Linux/J2EE application and supporting it for three years would be just over $2.2 million. For the Microsoft platform, the cost was about $1.6 million.
The study examined Linux and J2EE's costs only for Web portal types of applications, Rymer said, and shouldn't be taken as a blanket statement about Linux. "It's a statement about Linux in a certain context," he said.
More sophisticated applications, such as trading systems or telecommunications management systems, are areas where Linux might make sense, he said.
"With those sorts of applications, you might get an advantage out of going with Linux and J2EE," Rymer said. "One of the things we didn't study was rehosting. If you've got existing Unix applications and you're not going to change them, and you just want to reduce the cost of your platform, then Linux may be a good choice for you."
Although they would have had significantly lower software costs, application development approaches based on free databases or scripting tools such as PHP Hypertext Processor and MySQL weren't considered, Rymer said. These free tools weren't used by the organizations interviewed for the study, five of which were running Linux.
The Forrester report is the second broadside on Linux by Microsoft in the past week. On Sept. 4, the company released benchmark numbers showing that Windows on Intel had better price performance than Linux on IBM's z900 mainframe when it came to file and Web serving tasks.
After conceding that its previous, more emotionally charged attacks on Linux had backfired, Microsoft changed tactics and in July resolved to fight a fact-based campaign against Linux. The Forrester study is part of that campaign, according to Microsoft's general manager of platform strategy, Martin Taylor.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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