September 13, 2003

GNU/Linux saves the day

- by Jason Yost -
Microsoft, in its neverending quest to convince the world that Windows is better and more cost-effective than GNU/Linux, recently funded a research group to run some tests. The results of course came out in favor of Microsoft and .NET being more cost-effective to develop applications than J2EE and GNU/Linux. I chuckled to myself, wondering who could be so gullible, as I glanced over at the new Linux server my IT department had just purchased and configured.My story starts a few weeks ago when my company's ISP started upgrading all of its servers to Windows 2003 and transferring our email systems to a .NET platform. After the upgrades were completed to the "better," "more cost-effective," and "more stable" Microsoft solutions, our company immediately began having trouble.

We were patient in the beginning, allowing our ISP to beta test software on our running company without our permission. During the initial two weeks, my IT manager and I spoke about bringing some of our hosting in-house. We immediately went to work on developing a plan and looking at cost. Recent budget cuts to our department limited us in what we could purchase and license. After shopping around and discussing the issue further, we determined that Microsoft was out. The cost for building and deploying the in-office server with all of the licensed software was way beyond our meager budget.

The discussion then turned towards GNU/Linux. After researching cost and developing a plan to transfer some of our operations in-house to a GNU/Linux-based server, we purchased one, leaving a full third of our budget still intact.

The server arrived with Red Hat Linux 9 pre-installed and configured on the machine. We were ready to begin the transition of a portion of our operations from ASP and MS SQL Server over to PHP and MySQL. However, those plans were placed on hold, as during this time we were making daily calls to our ISP letting them know of our server outages, email outages, and general lack of ability to effectively run our company under these conditions.

Which brings me to the back to sitting at my desk staring at my monitor with amusement at the claim of Microsoft's products being cheaper. I just spent the morning scrambling to move all 10 of my company's mail servers to the new in-house GNU/Linux box. The issue with the Windows servers had become so bad that our company was almost at a complete halt. We lost thousands of dollars of business and were under pressure to find a solution immediately. GNU/Linux stepped up and saved the day, and I spent the rest of the afternoon comfortably coding while our new server handled the entire company's email without fault.

Though this situation may not have been entirely the fault of Microsoft or its products, it's outrageous to claim Microsoft products are more cost-effective than GNU/Linux. The company I work for has paid its IT staff thousands of dollars to troubleshoot Windows and Windows applications and lost thousands of dollars in business while they were deployed. By contrast, the cost of the new server, and the salary for a half day spent configuring GNU/Linux and Postfix, cost my company barely 5% of what it paid for the Microsoft solution.

I doubt I am the only person in the IT industry to have run across these types of problems with Microsoft technology. I don't know who Microsoft is trying to fool.


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