CIOs still favour Unix over Windows: report

Despite increased spending on Microsoft Windows 2000/NT upgrades in the second half of 2001, 33 per cent of CIOs feel that it will be another two to three years before NT technology is competitive with Unix, according to the latest Morgan Stanley CIO Survey.

The mid-August survey by the New York firm polled 225 U.S.-based CIOs and showed the top two areas most likely to see the biggest increase in spending were Windows 2000 upgrades for both servers and desktops. Despite that, cost, reliability, and scalability concerns will prevent NT technology from overtaking Unix in most data centres.

The findings show that 56 per cent of respondents had cost issues, 60 per cent were worried about reliability, and 54 per cent had scalability concerns.

Clinton Wasylishen, a server support specialist at Telus Enterprise Solutions in Edmonton, Alta., said most Canadian companies were “waiting it out” before upgrading as there were concerns – founded and unfounded – surrounding NT technology.

“On the server side, there is now some direction from Microsoft that the next major revision of NT Server will be a very smooth upgrade – especially compared to the NT-to-2000 upgrade path,” Wasylishen said.

“I think that Microsoft has cleared up their direction with their NT Server product, and there is a lot more confidence in the product and the path that Microsoft is taking today.”

Perception of past performance and the fact that Microsoft is relatively new on the server scene are reasons why CIOs may hold this view, said Kevin Hunter, marketing manager for Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont. Benchmark testing can show that NT technology does compete with Unix.

“The bottom is that it’s (all) perception. There are organizations that deliver benchmarks . . . (and) companies like Unisys and Compaq, partners who have been implementing this technology, and can help with the risk mitigation of (Windows/NT technology),” Hunter said.

“As the products become available, and partners become more robust, (more) customers start to understand and implement the technology.”

In general, the cost of a Unix server/OS is out of the reach for many small and mid-sized businesses, Wasylishen noted.

“There is a place for Unix servers, but I don’t think that it can be argued that the cost of a Unix box is ever less than the cost of an NT/2000 box. Microsoft touts many studies that would suggest that the TCO for 2000 is considerably lower than Unix any day . . . and I, for one, would tend to believe them.”

While Wasylishen concedes it isn’t uncommon to require reboots on NT servers at least every six months, most Windows 2000 boxes (application and hardware problem exclusive) can run for an entire year without needing a reboot, Wasylishen said.

“It goes without saying that Unix is not a desktop operating system, and so it will never really ‘stack up’ to Windows 2000 in that field,” Wasylishen added. “It is my belief that Windows 2000 is competitive with Unix today.”

The study also shows that CIOs remain cautious about their IT budgets as the number of respondents who reported smaller deal sizes and request for cuts from senior management dipped slightly from 50 per cent in May to 48 per cent in July. CIOs who have not revised spending plans for the second half jumped slightly to 33 per cent in July from 30 per cent in May while the percentage of CIOs who planned to spend less or spend more slowly this year decreased from 35 per cent in May to 31 per cent in July.

54 per cent stated that spending on technology products in the second half would remain stable, compared to what they spent in the first half. Another third of respondents said they are planning to spend more in the second half of the year while 12 per cent were uncertain.