Gartner warns Windows upgrades may be cheaper than putting Linux on the desktop

The majority of businesses would not reduce IT costs by migrating their Windows desktop platforms to Linux on the desktop,...

The majority of businesses would not reduce IT costs by migrating their Windows desktop platforms to Linux on the desktop, analyst firm Gartner has warned.

Although the open source operating system has had success in the server market in reducing costs, migrating PC desktops to Linux makes sense in only a limited range of situations, said David Smith, vice-president and Gartner fellow.

"Many servers are dedicated to running a single application; in many cases, it has been relatively easy for enterprises to replace specific servers, such as a web server, and implement Linux," Smith said.

"However, the environment for Linux on the desktop is significantly different. Knowledge workers use PCs to run diverse combinations of applications. For those users, migration costs will be high because all Windows applications must be replaced or rewritten."

A Linux migration should be considered only if there are relatively few applications in use and those applications are fixed-function or low-function, such as data entry, call centre or bank teller/platform automation, he said.

Before any migration plan is implemented, it is imperative that businesses gain a full understanding of the total cost of ownership, said Michael Silver, vice-president and research director at Gartner.

"Understanding the current and the expected Linux total costs of ownership can help an enterprise to determine the estimated migration savings," he said.

"When calculating such costs it is important to realise that the cost of the PC and client operating system represents only a small part of the total cost of ownership - generally 20% to 30% - and other costs such as labour, training and external services must be considered."

Companies should also compare the costs and savings of a move to Linux with the costs and savings of upgrading to a newer version of Windows, Silver said.

"The total cost of ownership of Windows 95 is relatively high and increasing because support from Microsoft has been eliminated and support from independent software suppliers and other third-parties continues to wane.

"Enterprises running Windows 95 will likely see more benefits by a move to Linux than will enterprises using Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Windows 2000 and XP include more modern technology than Windows 95 and are generally more stable and incur lower costs," Silver said.

Linux more expensive, says Microsoft       

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

The report, based on a snapshot of 12 IT departments, estimated the cost of building custom Java 2 Enterprise Edition and .net applications within large and medium-sized organisations.

Forrester 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 and Microsoft SQL Server.

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