Anyone finding Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) subscriptions a tough sell for management used to Microsoft's one-time licence fee for Windows must emphasise that there are more factors to be considered, chiefly return on investment, Red Hat officials said Friday.

The issue was raised by an attendee during a question-and-answer session between high-ranking Red Hat officials and the audience at the Red Hat Summit 2009 conference in Chicago. The attendee said it was difficult to persuade decision-makers to move away from Windows and buy Red Hat's Linux. They are sold on Microsoft's one-time acquisition fee and security updates, he said. "With the subscription model for RHEL, you have to keep paying," the attendee said.

Technically, Linux is more stable and better than Windows but management look at the duel from a different perspective, he said. Managers see "a subscription model as an expense that you have to keep forever," said the attendee, who asked for an approach to persuading management to embrace open source.

Red Hat officials stressed return on investment and total cost of ownership. "We have much data and many models to prove that what we have is a better investment over time," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president and president for products and technologies.

Red Hat Linux can save on personnel costs pertaining to IT management, said Katrinka McCallum, vice president for the management solutions business unit at Red Hat. "[Users] are able to do a lot more with some of the management tools," she said. Buyers must consider business value, reliability, and people costs, McCallum said.

From a total cost of ownership perpsective, Red Hat comes out ahead every time, claimed Marco Bill-Peter, vice president of the Red Hat support group.