Applications cost more to build with Linux/Java: report

Development and deployment of Web-based applications using Java and Linux can be up to 28 per cent more expensive than similar applications built using Microsoft Corp.’s software, according to a Forrester Research Inc. study released Monday.

The Microsoft-commissioned report compared both Linux and Windows in Web-based applications and primarily focused on costs, benefits, risk and flexibility to an organization, said Bob Cormier, a Forrester senior consulting advisor and co-author of the study.

Forrester interviewed 12 U.S.-based companies, seven of which used the Microsoft .Net platform to develop and deploy custom Web applications, and the remaining five, which used Linux. The companies were from two sample-sized organizations – large- and medium-sized enterprises.

“Microsoft had significant cost advantages over a four-year life cycle,” Cormier said. “The J2EE application server and Unix based database software – used in the Linux development and deployment stack – drive up product cost and development complexity relative to the comparable Microsoft products.”

The report discovered that in the large enterprise, total costs associated with the initial development and deployment, plus three years of support and maintenance, were just over US$2.2 million for J2EE and Linux, and about US$1.6 million for Microsoft over the same time frame.

That is a difference of US$645,929, Cormier explained, which is the equivalent of about 28 per cent savings to deploy Microsoft’s platform over Linux and Java.

In the medium-sized enterprises the numbers were similar – about 25 per cent cost difference to use Microsoft’s .Net over the Java/Linux combination.

A main driving force for the difference is the shorter time it takes to deploy Microsoft – nine months – compared to 12 for J2EE/Linux, Cormier said.

Along with labour costs, the license fees of the J2EE and database products sitting on top of Linux were also a financial factor, according to the report.

Forrester pointed out that the linkage between Linux as the operating system and J2EE as the development and deployment environment is a factor often overlooked in discussions of Linux’s cost economics. It said the low licence costs of Linux appear to offer an advantage over the costs of Windows, but that can be misleading.

The report also said that non-J2EE development environments for Linux, such as the PHP scripting language, are likely to be less expensive than J2EE environments, but they are not widely used for enterprise applications.

Cormier, whose main focus was on the finance and economic side of the research, said the study takes into account not only the licenses but also the hardware, software, system administration and training costs.

While Forrester only did the analysis for one year of development time and three years of usage of the portal application, Cormier said that Linux would have likely been considered less expensive if the research stopped after the development period.

“But no one ever does that,” he said.

The study used list prices as the basis of the cost comparison and did not factor in discounts, which are usually rampant in the industry, Cormier said. He added that the study only focused on the portal application scenario.

Ben Watson, Web services senior product manager at Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont. said that while the Forrester researchers interviewed U.S.-based organizations, the scenarios are similar in Canada.

Forrester can be found at Microsoft is online at