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Microsoft Cheaper For Web Serving? 135

Posted by Cliff
from the some-seriously-wacked-numbers-goin'-round dept.
Tinman_au asks: "Bink.nu has an article titled "Leading Belgian Hosting Provider Realizes Lower TCO on Windows than Linux" that asks the following: 'Many total cost of ownership (TCO) studies have reaffirmed that TCO of a large enterprise infrastructure based on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 is lower than one based on Linux. But what about TCO in a Web hosting environment?' In the table of figures, the cost area breakout lists labour for Fedora at 77.88% with Windows .NET with SQL Server 2005 as only 53.15%. Admittedly, the report was done by Microsoft itself, so I guess it couldn't exactly be considered impartial, but not being a web admin I found myself wondering, is Windows really that much easier to look after in a web server environment, or has Microsoft fudged some numbers?"
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Microsoft Cheaper For Web Serving?

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  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by a16 (783096) on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:04AM (#16973264)
    I work for a reasonably sized host (ie. thousands of unique clients, not 25 clients like your average host who will probably reply here), and as we are a completely linux (CentOS/Fedora) host, our operating system licensing costs are $0. If we were running Windows and SQL server etc, I'd estimate that our licensing costs per year would be 5-6 figure figures for commercial MS licenses for the number of servers that we have and the MS software that we'd need.

    We have staff to administrate the servers, and we'd need them if were to manage windows servers. We generally only ever have 1-2 technicians available at any one time to manage all of our servers, and we'd need that many if we were managing the same number of Windows servers too. Ignoring start up training costs, which really only exist if you're migrating from Windows to Linux, staffing costs are absolutely no more for managing Linux boxes than Windows, I'd argue the opposite. Infact, if we were to migrate to Windows tomorrow, as TFA is saying we should - there would be huge initial licensing and training costs, I imagine more so than moving a Windows staff to Linux.

    Sponsored by MS means this can be ignored, why do we keep posting this stuff? :)
  • by arivanov (12034) on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:21AM (#16973416) Homepage
    Disagree. I will tag this as "Logical Development".

    This study perfectly describes the problem with many Linux/Unix deployments out there. They are done by people who take the approach which they have grown accustomed to on Windows, Novell and the like and try to transfer it to Linux/Unix. This approach is best described as "everything you cannot do with the vendor tools must be done manually" and "we only use commercial/vendor software". When using this approach Linux/Unix invariably results in higher TCO because the price of labour is higher and level of one-click moron-friendly automation is lower for most cases.

    When doing Linux/Unix work writing your own tools and assisting yourself in automating tasks is a part of the job and Sysadmins who do not possess the skills should not allow themselves to claim that they are Linux/Unix Sysadmins. From there on, if you estimate the costs of running and deploying systems without taking this into account you invariable come up with Windows being cheaper.

    That is the reality, face it move along and ignore the study. While it was using the right analysis methods it was analysing deployments which do not use the correct design and process for either system. If you use design and processes which are wrong for one system it is not particularly surprising that you get bad TCO for it.
  • Alas... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:29AM (#16973484)
    I am, even as I type this, taking a break from trying to deploy a PHP app to a different server than the one it was developped on, and the amount of fiddling required to get both installations of PHP to work in a compatible way is mind-numbing. And costly. Turns out that PHP broke backwards compatibility again in its last version, which breaks the app, and the previous version against which the app was developped (5.1) has a security hole so that's a no go either.

    I can heartily believe that in such a situation, a more industrialized solution (IIS+ASP or Apache+non-PHP) would be significantly cheaper to deploy.

    Not gonna rant about PHP and beat that dying horse, but please don't dismiss such a study just because its findings annoys us. We have a lot of improvement to do still. :(
  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WebHostingGuy (825421) * on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:40AM (#16973580) Homepage Journal
    That is why this TCO says Linux is higher. If you look at all the numbers Linux is lower on everything except Labor. They quote almost a 100% over Windows labor. Obviously this is because they can't find anyone capable of performing Linux system administration.

    I wouldn't say this would translate to the rest of the world because your labor pool is going to vary from county to country, city to city and even among different companies. For this place in the world, at this time, this is probably correct. However, all you can extrapolate from this study is that for this place in the world, at this time, Windows is cheaper to run than Linux "for them." For everyone else you have to do your own TCO.

  • Re:Typical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spiked_Three (626260) on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:44AM (#16973614)
    You are saying the right thing, but not qualifying it correctly.

    There is absolutely more horsepower and flexibility in the *nix environment, BUT; There is a steeper learning curve. Given 2 admin that are experts in each, *nix will give you more. Given 2 newbs, the Windows environment will get you up and running a medium complex web site faster, cheaper. The majority of enterprises work that way, newbs and short on staff.
  • Typical? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday November 24, 2006 @10:37AM (#16974112)

    Ironically, I suspect your comment actually demonstrates why, in real terms, a lot of businesses find MS cheaper.

    You may get more horsepower and flexibility out of a non-MS environment. That's great, and makes non-MS the way to go if a business is employing people like you.

    Now, would you describe yourself (being honest) as a smarter-than-average sysadmin, a Linux/Mac/whatever specialist, an experienced geek...? In other words, are you a typical sysadmin that a typical company will hire, with typical experience on the various platforms, or would such a person require more experience/training/skill to get the same good results out of non-MS systems that you do?

    On the flip side, do you (being honest) have less than average experience/skill with MS systems, perhaps as a result of specialising elsewhere, and would you therefore require more training and expertise to get the same quality of results others do out of MS server software?

    Obviously, I can't read your mind, and I'm not going to put words into your fingertips by guessing your answers. But I can make an educated guess that there are a lot more people around who know how to get OKish results out of MS stuff than there are who know how to get much better results out of non-MS stuff, and that the MS-using folks therefore tend to be easier to find and cheaper to hire. That has a major effect on the bottom line of a business, and is why (for many places) MS is going to look like the safer bet on TCO grounds for at least a while yet.

  • by Chi-RAV (541181) on Friday November 24, 2006 @10:42AM (#16974170)
    Now consider Linux. You can't just really pay some guy with an MCDBA/MC??? or equivalent to operate your systems, because there isn't really any equivalent of that in the Linux world. Even most self taught Linux people are more knowledgeable than a lot of the "Microsoft Certified" people out there. So, because the Linux tech actually has more talent,
    Thats a nice sentiment, but you cant hire people on the basis of "im self taught". In pretty much any professional setting you will have to show your qualifications in terms of certification, albeit in the form of a MCDBA or in the form of some BSc/MSc grade.
    There of course are Linux certifications, but until businesses start asking for people with those certs they are basically useless. change the management perspective and you change the TCO, not the other way around unfortunately
  • by arivanov (12034) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:06AM (#16974436) Homepage
    You are half the way there in your analysis.

    Studies like this actually take into account the fact that the Unix/Linux sysadmin on the average is 20%+ more expensive.

    They are wrong elsewhere.

    They do not take into account that a selfrespecting Unix/Linux sysadmin will automate everything he/she can and will not repeat everyday mundane tasks. Instead of this they still count the time which is essential to maintain and patch the systems towards the TCO bill and multiply it by their number (correcting only for vendor tools to assist rollout where applicable). There is no correction for ad-hoc scripting and no correction for productising ad-hoc tools for internal rollout. Further to this many places go into the idiocy of prohibiting such internal software development. In fact I know one or two places where such activities are a sackable offence.

    I have stopped counting how many times over the years I have heard the "We are not software developers" mantra from PHB wannabies. That is the damn difference between a high level Unix sysadmin and a Windows sysadmin in the first place. The Unix sysadmin can write in at least 2-3 rapid development languages - (k)shell, perl and/or python and the reason why he/she gets more money is exactly this. Paying him this money and not using this ability is stupid, but this is what many places do as a matter of policy. It is no wonder that places like this have better TCO under Windows compared to Unix/Linux. That is to be expected and that will continue to be the case until they start to automate mundane operations in-house, formally maintain the automation and productise/package it for internal use.

    In fact the TCO numbers for systems like the one in the article (1000+ of slightly customized commodity software on commodity OS) come out in favour of Linux/Unix even if this activity is subcontracted out. They do not come out right only when it is prohibited and the work is done solely via vendor supplied tools.
  • Sure... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dion (10186) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:40PM (#16975412) Homepage
    ... if you're a digger operator.

    Certifications are worthless.

    What matters is real-world experience and before you have any of that there is formal education to get a foot in the door.

    In the company i work for there is noone who has any certifications, execpt for a few people who got them by accident before being hired, there are plenty of good people who know everything there is to know about Solaris, Oracle, Linux, Java and C++ though.

    What is a certificate good for other than to show that you can think inside of that particular vendors box?
  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Friday November 24, 2006 @01:06PM (#16975726)
    I think you hit on a REALLY good point in there. In my *nix administration, I have no daily activities! I've written programs for them all. This is almost impossible to do for most GUI's in general and more so with windows. I've always found the task scheduler to be a very weak replacement for cron and windows event log to be a weak replacement for syslog. The funny thing is... I do actually have a report I have to run manually once a week, and it's for the single windows box I maintain.
  • by ElectricRook (264648) on Friday November 24, 2006 @03:12PM (#16977002)

    It's not the first server that is cheaper, it's the N'th server that's cheaper. To drive a mouse around on one MicroSoft server is easy, little training required. The second is only a little more expensive.

    The real economy is when you have big numbers of servers. When using cron to drive your admin scripting and SCP to change that scripting. That's when UNIX varieties really shine.

    An army of admins are needed to admin a bank of Microsoft servers, one or two smart admins can easily handle several banks of UNIX servers, and have time to contribute to /. too.

    especially at upgrade time.

  • by Sprinkels (41102) on Friday November 24, 2006 @04:49PM (#16977840)

    They do not take into account that a selfrespecting Unix/Linux sysadmin will automate everything he/she can and will not repeat everyday mundane tasks.

    I see no reason why a selfrespecting Windows sysadmin would not do the same.

    That is the damn difference between a high level Unix sysadmin and a Windows sysadmin in the first place.

    Actually, to a high level sysadmin there isn't a lot of difference between administrating Windows and Unix like operating systems.

    It's a prejudice to assume that scripting like on Unix is not possible on Windows. On the contrary, many Windows sysadmins use scripting tools to automate everyday mundane tasks. In fact even the archaic MS-DOS from the eighties has its own scripting language built in. Which is used even today by nearly all Windows sysadmins.

  • Re:Alas... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lalakis (308990) on Friday November 24, 2006 @08:25PM (#16979626) Homepage

    Turns out that PHP broke backwards compatibility again in its last version, which breaks the app, and the previous version against which the app was developped (5.1) has a security hole so that's a no go either.

    2 things:
    1) Chances are the app you are working with was badly written in the first place
    2) You should have used a SUPPORTED distribution, appropriate for this kind of work. If for example you had used Redhat Enterprise Linux then redhat would have backported the patch for the security bug to your version and you would have a secure fully patched system without changing any software version.

    Your company made some wrong choises and pays for them. It would be better if it had hired a qualified sysadmin in the first place and avoided all that... (and yes, he would cost more than a windows sysadmin)

  • by walt-sjc (145127) on Friday November 24, 2006 @08:42PM (#16979752)
    I see no reason why a selfrespecting Windows sysadmin would not do the same.

    Maybe because MS has gone out of their way to make automation Very difficult, instead pushing the pointy clicky interface for everything, and hiding all useful information in binary blobs inside the registry. Command line interfaces are klunky at best, and usually poorly documented. Yes, you can write applications to munge the registry, but it is a PITA. You don't bother writing automation applications unless you have a LOT of servers.

    *nix automation is trivial. Small, simple scripts can do a lot. The information you need is right there, your script just parses what you see, and regurgitates what you would do manually.

    The big difference is that the manual interface on Windows is gui, and the manual interface on *nix is command line (which is easy to script.)
  • by arivanov (12034) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @04:12AM (#16982364) Homepage
    Exactly.

    And as the subject of the article is TCO in terms of TCO customised per-site Windows automation costs much more then similar Unix automation. As a result it is worth it and justified financially only for very large installations. Everything else aside the tools (VB, ActivePerl and friends) cost money and you need a reasonable number of servers to get return on investment.

    Custom Unix automation as means of reducing your TCO starts making sense from one server onwards. Tools are part of the platform and cost nothing.

    So yes, selfrespecting windows sysadmins may automate custom tasks on Windows as well, but this for anything but very large sites may actually increase your TCO instead of reducing it due to cost of tools and cost of prototyping.

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