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Windows cheaper to patch than OSS

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A Microsoft-commissioned study -- conducted by its business partner Wipro -- outlined the main areas of so-called "cost savings" by using Windows.

A survey of 90 organisations revealed that Windows database servers cost 33 percent less to patch than their OSS counterparts. Respondents said on average, Windows clients are 14 percent cheaper to patch.

The findings were criticised by several quarters, with some critics dubbing them unrealistic and outdated.

These sorts of studies can't be used as a real-world guide to the cost of patching or maintaining applications, said Frost & Sullivan Australia security analyst James Turner. "All organisations have different needs," he added.

"ROI [return on investment] and TCO [total cost of ownership] figures should be taken as a guide -- they are the vendor's estimates," said Turner.

Paul Kangro, Novell solutions manager for Asia Pacific, highlighted several problems in the research.

Although the study was conducted last year, it referred to problems faced by administrators during 2003 -- before significant improvements were made to Linux patching tools, Kangro said. "We didn't have tools like Xen for Linux then. When I patch my Linux box I don't need to bring it up and down any number of times."

There was also no mention of costs associated with rebooting systems after a patch is applied. "If I am patching a Windows box I typically need to find a time where I can bring it offline and reboot it. That is not mentioned anywhere in this report, which I find rather interesting," said Kangro.

However, Sean Moshir, chief executive of application patch specialist PatchLink, said that Microsoft's patches are in fact cheaper to apply than open-source platforms.

The open source community has retaliated with its own research showing proprietary software is more expensive to use and maintain.

Survey participants comprised companies in the United States and Western Europe with between 2,500 and 113,000 employees.

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