Linux developement can be costly, says Forrester

Creating and maintaining a custom web-based application with Java and Linux is almost 40% more expensive than using Microsoft's...

Creating and maintaining a custom web-based application with Java and Linux is almost 40% more expensive than using Microsoft's software, a Microsoft-commissioned report from Forrester Research claims.

The report estimated the cost of building custom J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and .net applications within large and medium-sized organisations. Forrester based its cost estimated on interviews done with IT staff at 12 sample organisations.

The study found a huge gap in software maintenance costs incurred by the two approaches, largely because of the price difference between the BEA and Oracle software that Forrester compared with VisualStudio .net and Microsoft SQL Server.

Software maintenance in a large organisation was estimated at $160,000 annually for a Linux/J2EE development effort,  compared with just under $46,000 for Microsoft users.  In medium-sized businesses, the costs were $17,775 and $7,158 respectively.

The other major cost difference was in the time companies would spend on software development, which was increased by about a third for J2EE/Linux 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, Forrester vice-president and 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 $2.2m. On the Microsoft platform, the cost dropped to around $1.6m range.

The study examined Linux and J2EE's cost only for web portal types of applications, Rymer said, and should not be taken as a blanket statement about Linux.

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 re-hosting. 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."

Though they would have significantly reduced the software costs in the study, application development approaches based on free databases or scripting tools such as PHP (PHP Hypertext Processor) and MySQL were not considered.

These free tools were not used by the sample organisations interviewed in the study, five of which were running Linux.

The Forrester report is the second broadside on Linux by Microsoft in the past week. The company released benchmark numbers showing that Windows on Intel had better price performance than Linux on the IBM z900 mainframe when it came to file and web serving tasks.

After conceding that its previous, more emotionally charged attacks on Linux had backfired, the company changed tactics and in July resolved to fight a fact-based campaign against Linux. The Forrester study is another part of this campaign, according to Microsoft's general manager of platform strategy, Martin Taylor.

The Forrester report can be found at

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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