Linux costs more to run than Windows - it's definite, according to research company Yankee Group.

You're entitled to feel a bit sceptical when Microsoft commissions research that concludes Windows is better than the open-source OS in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO). There has been a steady stream of such reports, from major research houses, over the past couple of years, often with questionable assumptions.

But Yankee's latest report, due out next week, is an independent piece of work
and one of the first such that's not Microsoft-funded. Its primary finding is that, unless you're a small business with a customised vertical application, companies deploying Windows users enjoy a lower cost of ownership than those using Linux.

After researching IT managers and executives globally, analyst and author Laura DiDio is reported as saying that, "Corporate customers report Linux does indeed provide businesses with excellent performance, reliability, ease of use and security." However, "hype notwithstanding, Linux's technical merits while first-rate, are equivalent but not superior to Unix and Windows Server 2003," says DiDio.
She continues, "there's a clear bifurcation between the high and low ends of the market - everyone has a Linux strategy...even if it is just to use Linux as a stone to throw at Microsoft."

Many companies are looking at their OS strategies in the light of the rise of Linux, according to the report, but most will stick with Redmond for the time being. Just four per cent of Unix and 11 per cent of Windows businesses are to replace existing systems with Linux, said the report, and fewer than five per cent said they would switch desktops to Linux from Windows.

Companies are well aware that, though Linux is free or almost free to acquire, running costs are high, whether enterprises roll their own support or pay the "hefty premiums for must-have items like technical service and support, product warranties and licensing indemnification", according to the study.

Other points made by the study show:

Those who like Linux like it not because it's free but because it's more reliable (30 per cent), it's more secure (31 per cent) and because they fear being locked into an all-Microsoft environment (29 per cent).
Most large enterprises will not install Linux as a front-line OS because it costs from 25 to 50 per cent more in technology support specialists than Windows.
Over the next two years, enterprises will spend as much securing their Linux systems as they do now on their Windows systems.
Most said they would migrate "a portion" of their Windows servers to Linux for specialised applications.
Most switchers to Linux are coming not from Windows but from other flavours of Unix.

None of this is likely to persuade open-source advocates though. Particularly when they discover that Ms DiDio is also the analyst that went very public with her claim that SCO had a good case in its legal battle against Linux, in which the company claims to have copyright over vital parts of the Linux kernel.

DiDio signed an SCO non-disclosure agreement and reported that she had seen 80 lines of code in the kernel that were copy-pasted from SCO's owned code. She could not, of course, reveal what they were.

Ms DiDio, an ex-journalist for among others Computerworld, Network World and Internet Week, is one of the more high-profile IT analysts, always ready with an opinion regarding anything to do with Microsoft. Frequently applauding the software giant, she is nevertheless not above occasionally criticising the company, calling for instance the delay in Microsoft producing a patch for the ASN security hole a "mistake in judgement".