Linux, Windows run equal on hosting costs

There's little TCO difference between Linux and Windows, according to a hosting giant but its customers' preferences fall in favour of Windows.

OzHosting.com open said the open source operating system results in “insignificant” cost reductions in a hosting environment and most of its customers prefer to host their sites on Windows.

OzHosting.com’s CIO Adam Keher said the acquisition cost of Linux is actually higher than that of Windows.

“Linux is more expensive at $45 per server per month for Red Hat compared with $12 to $30 per month for Windows under the service provider licence agreement,” Keher said.

“Here, Windows has a lower TCO and delivers the same level of availability and Red Hat only has the option of a 12-month payment cycle. We choose Red Hat Linux because of the support it offers and how it is certified by hardware vendors.”

OzHosting.com now claims second spot among Australia’s hosting companies with upwards of 30,000 domains, of which about 80 percent are on Windows and 20 percent are on Linux.

“The default operating system in our sales process is Windows but customers can get Linux if they request it,” Keher said. “However, we do get a higher number of requests for Windows.”

Regarding support, Keher said it is also higher but the support for Linux “tends to be higher skilled”.

“I’ve found it easier to locate skills for Linux and being able to look at the source code and get community support is increasingly helpful,” he said.

“I would take open source community support, for example news groups, over MSDN any day. Also, the migration of Linux boxes going from box-to-box is easier and we had to write complex code to migrate Windows.”

Although OzHosting.com has an equal number of Linux and Windows development staff, Keher said because everything is heavily automated there is an insignificant difference in cost between platforms for the same level of availability.

“When you factor in many boxes and the amount of revenue returned from each box, the [platform] cost is insignificant,” he said. “Both platforms give 99.9 percent-plus availability on cheap infrastructure.”

Regarding security, Keher is adamant that the TCO playing field is again level.

“Patch management for each takes the same amount of time, and so does scanning for vulnerabilities,” Keher said.

“There is a longer lead time with Windows for hackers to use knowledge that isn’t public but known to hackers. The level of attempted intrusion is the same and most vulnerabilities occur when users manage their own sites.”

That said, Keher believes that security issues related to Windows causes “a higher cost of damage”.

When it comes to workload consolidation, Keher dispelled any belief that Linux can reduce TCO by doing more work on fewer, or equal, systems than Windows.

“The load [point] is hard to argue,” he said. “Windows has come along way since IIS 4.0 and now I get more workload on IIS 6.0 than Apache.” Overall, Keher is said that agnosticism should reign supreme when IT managers and CIOs evaluate a server platform as the TCO between Linux and Windows will specifically depend on the business.

“There is no room for religion or zealotry [in choosing a platform] as it is a commercial decision,” Keher said. “CIOs should look at ways of reducing administration costs for both platforms and not get tied up with material costs. Automation saves money and, for hosting, this is generic across platforms so the TCO neutralises. But in certain [non-hosting] business cases Linux can dramatically reduce TCO.”

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