Companies find that their Linux server setups are less hardware-hungry than Windows-based systems, if the results of a recent survey are to be believed.

This conclusion can be drawn from a recent poll of 1,700 IT managers and executives worldwide, conducted by analyst house Yankee Group, and Sunbelt Software, vendor of Windows system administration and security systems.

The poll found that a minority 12 per cent of users change their Windows file and print servers every two years, while another 21 per cent switch every three years. In Linux environments, five per cent swap their server hardware every 24 months, while another six per cent said they were on a three-year upgrade cycle.

The performance inference could be drawn from the finding that almost half (48 per cent) of all organisations that upgrade or switch to Linux do not install new server hardware when they upgrade the OS. This contrasts sharply with the 12 per cent who said they do not switch the underlying server hardware when they perform a Windows operating system upgrade or migration.

Of course, one interpretation might be that the companies in question were on one of Microsoft's regular upgrade programmes, in which case they had a new rev of the OS to hand anyway. A small fillip for this analysis is provided by the fact only three per cent of the companies represented had no Windows installed.

It might also be the case that some find the Linux upgrade process harder than that of Windows, or that they don't have the relevant expertise. Support for this point of view comes from unstructured comments. Respondents using or planning to migrate a portion of their environment for Linux are said to have extolled the performance and reliability of that platform. But criticism of Linux centred on a dearth of available documentation and application support.

You could also infer that there's little to be gained on a performance front by upgrading file and print servers until they get quite ancient in IT terms -- some four to six years old. That's because some 48 per cent of IT shops don't upgrade file and print servers nearly as often as they do their Exchange and other application servers. It's not that surprising since file and print servers tend to be less highly stressed than application servers.

Application servers
One finding suggests that today's application servers aren't all that stressed, and can cope with the loads imposed on them -- especially if they're running Linux.

While corporations upgrade their Windows-based database servers and email/messaging servers a bit more regularly than their file and print servers, a full 21 per cent upgrade their messaging servers only every four years.

The percentages are much smaller in Linux environments, although 56 per cent of survey respondents said they currently had no Linux-based email and messaging servers. Of those that did, four per cent upgrade every two years, six per cent every three years, eight per cent every four years and a significant minority -- 15 per cent -- are on a five to six year upgrade cycle.

The conclusion? Vendors such as Novell and others selling Linux-based communications server applications still have a long way to go to oust Microsoft from its entrenched position.