Buying server operating system software is in some ways similar to buying a car. Maybe you feel pressured by the salesperson to buy an SUV when you want a smart car. Maybe you can’t really afford that Ferrari. Or maybe you buy a lemon and end up pouring tons of money into maintenance. But this doesn’t have to be an intimidating prospect – if you do your due diligence, you can find the right fit for your organization.
When it comes to server OS software, 98 per cent of shops are running Windows. But 47 per cent are running Linux and 52 per cent are running Unix – and that means they’re running multiple operating systems. “Unlike the desktop, it’s not a zero-sum game,” said Darin Stahl, lead analyst with Info-Tech Research Group. In companies with less than 100 employees, 78 per cent are only running Microsoft – but they may be running multiple versions. The more servers, the more we start to see Linux and Unix.
“The server operating system has become a utility,” said Stahl. What it boils down to is servicing business applications. “The key is to get it down to those business fundamentals and get away from the dogmatic Windows or Linux – those days are gone.”
Clearly, Microsoft Corp.
is a big player here, but so is commercially available Linux and cheap and cheerful open source, as well as the various flavours of Unix, such as those from Sun Microsystems Inc
. and IBM Corp
. Two of the largest suppliers of commercially available Linux are Novell Inc.
and Red Hat Inc.
Novell has built up a significant channel, while Red Hat prefers to sell direct.
Understanding the purchase cycle
The purchase cycle differs dramatically depending on the size and sector of the organization. In smaller businesses, often the person doing the purchasing is the same person managing the IT infrastructure, and they tend to be more reactive – that means the infrastructure grows organically rather than based on any kind of business strategy. In the public sector, the whole process can take a couple of years because of the layers of purchase justification, said Bruce Cowper, chief security advisor with Microsoft Canada.
The first step is to understand what you already have. Is it working for you? And where do you want to go? If you’re spending 70 per cent of your budget on what you have today, look to management tools to help you be more proactive. A lot of organizations are also extending the lifecycle and purchasing period through virtualization. Rather than taking two months to order a machine, image it and get it into your production environment, you can now deploy as and when you need to, said Cowper.
The same goes for open source, which doesn’t force you into a purchase cycle. “It’s intended to allow the customer to determine the purchase cycle, rather than someone saying Windows 7 is out, so now you’ve got to upgrade,” said Evan Leibovitch, executive director of the Canadian Association for Open Source
. “Within the open source world you tend to have a philosophy of it’s ready when it’s ready. How that affects the cycle is it makes it more difficult to say I’m going to move everything over on this day.” However, when you’re ready to upgrade, you can move straight to the state-of-the-art.