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 recent Forrester Research Inc. study.
The Microsoft-commissioned report compared both Linux and Windows in Web-based applications and primarily focused on costs, benefits, risk and flexibility for an organization, said Bob Cormier, a Forrester senior consulting advisor and co-author of the study.
Forrester interviewed 12 U.S.-based, large- and medium-sized enterprises, seven of which used the Microsoft .Net platform to develop and deploy custom Web applications, with the remaining five using Linux.
“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.”
Ottawa-based Francis Beaudet, chief architect at Macadamian Technologies Inc., a software development firm, said he is not surprised by Forrester’s findings.
“The environment for development on any Microsoft platform is usually more mature and that usually leads to shorter development times,” he said. In many cases the development tools, wizard tools and other features of .Net help developers within IT departments work faster.
However, Beaudet – who said he personally prefers to develop software using Java – explained that the difference between development happening in IT departments compared to development at software companies is the use of these wizard tools.
“At our company, we develop for other software companies and we don’t tend to use those kinds of [wizard] tools because the software has to be more generic,” Beaudet said.
“You will get the solution done quickly, but your solution will [for example] only solve this one problem. Businesses like to solve more than one problem in the software business.”
It’s a trade off, he said. While the shorter development times will be a result of using tools available in .Net, “using the tools comes at the expense of flexibility.”
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.
The difference of US$645,929, 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.
The main reason 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 licence fees for J2EE and database products sitting on top of Linux was another financial factor.
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 about 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 found that non-J2EE development environments for Linux, such as the PHP scripting language, are often less expensive than J2EE environments, but 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 licences but also the hardware, software, system administration and training costs.
The study used list prices as the basis of the cost comparison.