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Microsoft's Problem: It's Not Easy Being Mean
Friday, August 26 2005 @ 12:11 PM EDT

There's always one kid in the neighborhood nobody wants to play with. Maybe he's a bully, or extremely neurotic and hard to get along with, or maybe he's just not nice, a prize hypocrite, the kind of kid that acts like a saint when adults are watching but then pinches you hard to make you cry the minute they look away, and then when you complain, lies and says he didn't do anything, or claims it was you that pinched him first.

When the mean kid throws a birthday party, absolutely nobody wants to go, especially not you. You only go if your parents force you. Sometimes you go if he tells you there will be a pony to ride or great gifts or something, but in the end, you wish you had followed your first instinct and stayed home, after you end up mistreated at the party and the pony ride turns out to be only for the birthday boy. The next time you are invited and he promises there will be a clown performing, you stay home, because you don't believe a word that mean kid says to you any more, and you figure the clown will be inside a tent that only the birthday boy is allowed to enter or some such.

Microsoft is like that tricky kid nobody wants to play with any more, because he's been too mean. Could that be why, when Microsoft invited OSDL to join Microsoft in some research to compare Linux and Windows, OSDL didn't say yes? You think? Go figure.

Microsoft has this idea in its head that Linux is its competition, and since in their world view, business is like warfare in which only one side can remain standing at the end, I gather they decided to invite OSDL to help Microsoft damage Linux. And pay half, to boot. The FOSS world view is much simpler: nobody cares about Microsoft, except for wanting them to leave FOSS alone. If they really wish to cooperate, Microsoft can make its APIs available to FOSS developers and design everything strictly according to accepted standards, so GNU/Linux systems and applications actually work well with Microsoft software and can interoperate.

But, no, instead, Microsoft's "Get the Facts" general, Martin Taylor, offers to roll in a Trojan Horse into the heart of the FOSS community with a sly sign on it that says, "Let's Get to the Bottom of Which OS is the Best, 'Kay? It'll Be Fun. And May the Best Man Win." I'm sure the parameters of any research would have been carefully crafted to tilt always toward the conclusion that Microsoft is better. Or, as someone with the nym jkrise wrote on Slashdot:

Looks like MS wants the OSDL to endorse an opinion about the Windows Server OS -- so they can FUD the market with something like: "The OSDL, of which Linus Torvalds is a member, has admitted that the Windows Server Operating System has been found to deliver superior performance and TCO in 326 out of 1,028 customer situations... including Clippy, DRM, Windows Media Player, the registry, MSN messenger."

I don't think research about Clippy is needed, friend. Let's concede that Clippy is entirely Microsoft's and just honestly fess up that we have nothing quite like it.

FOSS doesn't pay for "independent" studies, silly Microsoft. Once you pay, they aren't independent. Get it? And we don't secretly commission studies either. If folks want to study such things as what operating system is better at various functionality or which is cheaper in the long run, feel free. Don't forget to factor in viruses and malware, though. You need to calculate all that down time, if the goal is accuracy. Microsoft's analysts keep forgetting to do that. Oh, and look at longer than three years, will you? And add in what it will cost you to upgrade your hardware to get on board the Vista train.

Businesses are making such comparisons all the time, so all you need to do is look at the stats to see what they have concluded, assuming, as I think we must, that whatever they buy reflects their opinions. We don't need Laura Didio, independent as she may or may not be, to investigate. Just look at the uptake of GNU/Linux and you'll probably conclude that Microsoft's Get the Facts campaign didn't work out.

Here are some statistics for you:

In the first quarter, computer servers running Linux generated $1.2 billion in sales, representing 10.3 percent of server revenue, an all-time high, according to IDC, a tech data firm.

Windows server sales more than tripled those of Linux, but Linux sales grew at a faster rate. Windows sales were up 12.3 percent from a year ago, compared with Linux's 35.2 percent growth.

That's US only. So, Microsoft has a clue at last that absolutely no one with half a brain takes its "Get the Facts" campaign seriously. They just can't figure out the why of it, and so they imagine it's a problem of *who* is paying for the studies. Now, I try hard to be nice, and so let me please explain to Microsoft why no one believes them. I suggest that we first take a longer-than-usual look at Microsoft's "Get the Facts" campaign, as a reasonable prediction of what Microsoft's approach to "research" might be. Feel free to laugh.

By the most remarkable of coincidences, it seems that every single study Microsoft has posted to its Get the Facts website finds that Microsoft is just as good as or better than Linux at absolutely everything. Considering that most of the world has pretty much voted for Apache, part of the LAMP stack, as the best server solution as compared to Windows, either most of the world has lost its cotton-pickin' mind, or something is off about Microsoft's studies. Look at this hilarious list, just the first few pages of their offerings on Get the Facts, starting here, and since it all says exactly the same thing, feel free to let your eyes glaze over or speed read, skipping all the way, once you get the idea:

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Role Comparison Security Report: Database Server Role
    In a comparison of relative security, this commissioned study found Windows Server 2003 running SQL Server 2000 SP3 to have fewer vulnerabilities than Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running Oracle 10g or RHEL running My SQL.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Switching from Sybase Means Saving Money, Boosting Performance
    This study found that completed migrations to Microsoft SQL Server resulted in significant savings for hardware and ongoing maintenance; better performance, scalability, and business intelligence; and proof of the effectiveness of the Sybase to Microsoft SQL Server Migration Workshop Framework.

  • Get the Facts: Solutions
    Discover the benefits of investing in Microsoft Windows instead of Linux through case studies profiling live installations at small, medium, and large businesses.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Case Studies: Few Plan to Migrate Windows to Linux
    During in-depth interviews for an independent analyst report, Windows 2003 and Windows XP are praised for noticeable improvements in performance, reliability, and security by executives responsible for company technology resources.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Independent Audit Measures Swifter, Easier Deployment for Microsoft Windows
    "Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 vs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 2.1 Deployment." In terms of time and complexity, deploying Windows is easier and faster than deploying Red Hat Linux, whether installing from scratch or configuring an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) installation.

  • Get the Facts: Trial Software
    Discover the benefits of investing in Microsoft Windows instead of Linux through case studies profiling live installations at small, medium, and large businesses.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Windows 2000 Earns High Security Rating During International Standards Testing
    "Overview: Windows 2000 Common Criteria Certification." Windows 2000 passed the stringent functional security requirements of the International Organization for Standards (ISO) Common Criteria Evaluation.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Licensing and Support Acquisition Costs
    Comparable for Windows Server, SUSE Linux, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux "Server OS Licensing and Support Cost Comparison—Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, and Novell/SUSE Linux 8." After an analysis of publicly-available pricing and licensing terms, a Microsoft-sponsored cost comparison by BearingPoint shows that licensing and support costs do not significantly differ between Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, or Novell/SUSE Linux 8.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: A New Approach to Software Architecture
    Modeling Uncovers Microsoft's Cost Advantages
    "Modeling Software Architectures and Platform Choices," by Roger Sessions, CEO. An analysis based on enterprise architecture requirements shows that Microsoft technologies are nearly one-third the cost to implement compared with IBM WebSphere products when building a browser-based order-entry system.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Windows File Servers Achieve Significantly Better Throughput Than Linux File Servers
    "Microsoft Windows Server 2003 vs. Linux Competitive File Server Performance Comparison." File-server benchmarks measured superior peak performance for Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, compared with Red Hat Linux in all hardware configurations from 1 to 8 processors.

  • Get the Facts: Server Solutions
    Discover the benefits of investing in Microsoft Windows instead of Linux through case studies profiling live installations at small, medium, and large businesses.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Windows Server 2003 Outperforms Linux for File Serving
    "Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition vs. Samba 3.0 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 3.0 File Server Performance Comparison." Analyzing file-server throughput using industry-standard NetBench test shows that Microsoft Windows Server 2003 outperformed Samba 3.0 running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux in multiple test configurations.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Yankee Group Refreshes North American Linux and Windows TCO Report
    Yankee Group (April 2005): A non-sponsored report calculates that 88 percent of corporations report that Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 operating system provides performance and reliability that are equal to or better than Linux in comparable usage scenarios.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Windows Server 2003 Outperforms Linux for File Serving
    "Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition vs. Samba 3.0 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 3.0 File Server Performance Comparison." Analyzing file-server throughput using industry-standard NetBench test shows that Microsoft Windows Server 2003 outperformed Samba 3.0 running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux in multiple test configurations.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Interoperability Projects Benefit From Microsoft-Based Service-Oriented Architectures
    "Interoperability Through Service-Oriented Architectures (SOAs)." This white paper outlines the service-oriented architecture approach to interoperability, which delivers excellent scalability, better ability to leverage existing systems and applications, lower IT costs, and improved user productivity. Microsoft SOA technologies are a strong choice because Microsoft developed most Web service standards, offers integrated developer tools, and has a compelling cost/value proposition.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Interoperability with Windows a Key Goal When Developing Applications, Say IT Managers
    "Interoperability: How Technology Managers Rate Microsoft and Its Technologies for Development." Among 800 IT decision makers, 72 percent give the Microsoft platform top interoperability marks, with 55 percent pointing to Web Services standards as helping to achieve it. Microsoft sponsored this report.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Concentrating on Windows Platform Leads to Financial Health for VAPs and VARs
    "An Assessment of Business Health Among Value Added Providers and Resellers." A study of value added providers (VAPs) and value added resellers (VARs) conducted by Management Insights that was commissioned by Microsoft uncovered a strong relationship between concentrating on the Windows platform and financial success.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Info-Tech Research Group: 2005 Information Technology Priorities
    Info-Tech Research Group, an information technology (IT) research and advisory firm, surveyed over 1,400 small-and medium-sized business IT professionals and determined that Microsoft Windows is preferred over Linux.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Info-Tech Research Group: 2005 Information Technology Priorities
    Info-Tech Research Group, an information technology (IT) research and advisory firm, surveyed over 1,400 small- and medium-sized business IT professionals and determined that Microsoft Windows is preferred over Linux.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Detailed Financials Show Total Linux Costs Are Higher Than Windows Costs by 5 to 20 Percent
    This non-sponsored analysis by Forrester of long-term Linux deployments concludes that operating expenses for some companies can overcome initial purchase savings, making Linux's total cost of ownership greater than that of Windows.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Worldwide Assessment of Server Operating System Deployment and Preference Share Among Value Added Providers
    This server preference and deployment trend study was completed by Management Insights, a leading global market research firm. The data shows that for small and medium VAPs both Linux deployment for the past year and likely Linux usage for the coming year is expected to remain flat.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Database Consolidation: Reducing Cost and Complexity
    In this non-sponsored study about database consolidation, AMR Research surveyed 251 companies and found that consolidation projects offer companies the hope of lower costs, greater ease of database administration, and the chance to improve the quality of their database technology.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Windows Server Offers Compelling Advantages Over Unix as ERP Hosting Platform
    "Migrating UNIX ERP Installations to a Windows Server Environment: A Qualitative Assessment of Business Impact" by META Group, Inc. This study of completed migration efforts shows a positive business impact when switching enterprise resource planning systems from UNIX to Windows Server.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Microsoft .NET Development Platform Delivers 25 Percent Lower Development and Support Costs Than J2EE/Linux
    "The Total Economic Impact of Developing and Deploying Applications on Microsoft and J2EE/Linux Platforms," by John R. Rymer, Vice President. Analyzing real-world custom application-development projects pinpoints areas where Microsoft tools save money: lower product costs, lower labor costs due to simplified development processes, and lower maintenance costs.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Large Enterprises: Switching from Windows to Linux "Prohibitively Expensive, Extremely Complex, Provides No Tangible Business Gains"
    This non-sponsored study about total cost of ownership (TCO) by Yankee Group found that a major Linux deployment or switch from Windows is four times more expensive and takes three times longer than a Windows upgrade.

  • Get the Facts: The Total Cost of Security Patch Management
    Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: In this study, Wipro surveyed 90 organizations, that use both Windows and open-source software, to determine the costs of patching both environments under similar conditions. Read the conclusions from this study.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Windows Users Have Fewer Vulnerabilities
    "Is Linux More Secure Than Windows?" After collecting a year's worth of vulnerability data for this non-sponsored report, Forrester then analyzed Windows and four key Linux distributors on metrics about responsiveness to vulnerabilities, severity of vulnerabilities, and thoroughness in fixing flaws.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux
    Leading companies and third-party analysts confirm it: Windows has a lower total cost of ownership and outperforms Linux. No single analysis of Windows versus Linux provides definitive answers for every company.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Comparing Microsoft .NET and IBM WebSphere/J2EE
    "Comparing Microsoft .NET and IBM WebSphere/J2EE: A Productivity, Performance, Reliability and Manageability Analysis" by David Herst with William Edwards and Steve Wilkes. A Microsoft-sponsored study finds that Microsoft .NET running on Windows Server provides better productivity, reliability, performance, and manageability than IBM WebSphere/J2EE running on Linux.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: File, Web, and Database Server Administration
    Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: File, Web, and Database Server Administration: The Realities Windows and Linux Administrators Face and Their Demands for Change. Based on their survey of more than 200 enterprise IT administrators, META Group found that the ongoing costs of management and support for Linux offset any upfront acquisition cost advantages relative to Windows Server.

  • Get the Facts on Windows and Linux: Role Comparison Report: Web Server Role
    "Role Comparison Report: Web Server Role." This study presents a role-based comparison of the relative security of two different platforms, based on quantitative factors—such as numbers of security software flaws and time to patch—and qualitative factors—such as ease of configuration and default security stance.

Is that not a hoot? And I don't have to say a word, do I? Such a list doesn't pass the snort test. Maybe in Redmondland, it does, but the rest of us see the Emperor has no clothes. According to Microsoft, everyone agrees that Microsoft has the best solutions, and yet most of servers in the world are Apache. What happened?

What happened is the studies are not being believed. Now, Microsoft would like OSDL to pay to do similar silly studies with them. Um. No. This doesn't pass the laugh test either:

In an interview with eWEEK, Taylor said that he had been reading an opinion piece in one of the Linux magazines that identified the need for the Linux and open-source community to come up with its own facts-based effort. That motivated him to contact Cohen and suggest this.

I believe he was referring to an article in LinuxInsider. Cluebat for ya, Mr. Taylor. I don't think LinuxInsider is viewed in the FOSS commuity as a "Linux magazine," maybe because it mostly publishes anti-Linux material, as far as I can see. Here's my guess. Might Microsoft's PR firm have arranged for the article, so that Mr. Taylor could use it as the "excuse" to approach OSDL? No? Who knows for sure, but with Microsoft... well, tell me it's not like them, do. Here are some responses to hearing about their offer, with some countersuggestions:

  • Red Hat:
    Red Hat, Inc. spokeswoman Leigh Day, in Raleigh, N.C., told eWEEK that Red Hat had no interest in seeing any such initiative with Microsoft, adding that she was not sure how a joint venture with the Redmond, Wash. software firm could ever be independent.

    Red Hat also believed that funded research was typically not objective. "We disagree with the idea of using 'research' as a tool to create FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] in the marketplace. Instead we use real-world customer testimonials instead of lab-created, situations to demonstrate the price, performance, scalability and security of Linux," she said.

  • Con Zymaris, Cybersource:
    Unfortunately, the kind of joint research that Microsoft proposed, namely more paid-for analyst comparisons, is designed to extend the Linux vs. Windows war-of-words, not help users of either platform. Cybersource has an alternate suggestion: it's time for Microsoft to actually do what's best for its own customers and the industry in general, by working towards making Linux and Windows work better together.

    "Most businesses will end up running a combination of proprietary and open source software," said Cybersource CEO Con Zymaris. "By joining with the open source industry and working towards reducing the interoperability headaches between the two, Microsoft can help its own customers as well as make it easier for users to select and move to the platform best suited to them."

    To date, most of the effort towards improving interoperability between Linux & open source and Microsoft platforms, has been shouldered by the open source community.

    "Apache, PHP, MySQL, Perl, Sendmail, BIND, Python, Zope, PostgreSQL, Firefox, Thunderbird,, FirebirdSQL and several thousand other open source technologies have been ported to run on Windows. In comparison, Microsoft has not made any effort to bring any of its major technologies, such as Exchange, Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer, IIS, SQL Server, to Linux," continued Zymaris.

    "When it comes to sharing data on disk or on a network, Linux's Network File System (NFS), EXT2 and ReiserFS filesystems are open and documented for interoperability, as are the Kerberos and OpenLDAP authentication protocols. This is in sharp contrast to Microsoft's NTFS, SMB/CIFS and Active Directory, which are encumbered through lack of technical interoperation documentation or by legal firewalls."

    "Just as importantly, open source developers provide full, unfettered access to protocols, document standards and XML schemas. In return, Microsoft keeps the information required to work with Word, Excel, Access, Outlook and Exchange, secret. Even when Microsoft makes claims towards interoperability, as with the recent Word XML schemas, they nobble that effort by releasing information under a licence which prevents implementation in common open source forms," continued Zymaris.

    Cybersource suggests the following as actually useful joint-research that Microsoft can co-operate with the open source community on:

    1) Publish (in an un-encumbered form) the information necessary for third-party software to interoperate fully with Microsoft Office, Exchange, Windows Media codecs etc.

    2) Stop the 'intellectual property' land-grab on XML schemas, communication protocols and document formats. Interoperability information should never be legally encumbered: that defeats the purpose.

    "In order for Linux and Windows to properly interoperate, we need to establish a common 'language', with agreed syntax, forms and rules -- this is what schemas, protocols and document formats do. Microsoft has thus-far done its best to subvert that common language with either technical or legal obstructions, causing problems for users. It's time to change tack and assist both Windows and Linux users by working towards interoperability," Zymaris concluded.

Oh, no! some may exclaim. Microsoft has turned over a new leaf. It realizes Linux is here to stay, so it's decided to make some changes. Oh? Really? Then explain this quotation from Kevin Johnson, a Microsoft group vice president:

Speaking at the company's annual financial analyst meeting on Thursday, Kevin Johnson, a Microsoft group vice president, said the software giant is focused on offering specific products and services aimed at three types of workloads where Linux is now a common choice: Web servers, high-performance computing and edge servers.

"We are targeting product and technology offerings to the unique needs of running those workloads," he said.

The plan is an extension of the Microsoft "Get the Facts" campaign, which the vendor launched in 2003 to compare the value proposition of Windows versus Linux in an effort to show customers that Windows offers a better return on investment in most cases.

Johnson said Microsoft's plan to target areas where Linux is especially popular will help Windows displace the open source operating system.

Well, talk about leopards and ability to change spots and everything. Here's Martin Taylor on the next phase of his Get the Facts strategy:

Taylor says the battle with Linux will continue to rage in areas such as web servers, Unix migration and high-performance computing for which Microsoft plans to launch a new product, Compute Cluster Edition, in the first half of next year.

Taylor also wants to work closer with governments to ensure decisions about Linux migration are made based on fact and not politics. “We will continue to roll up our sleeves and sit at the table and partner with the public sector.”

Compute Cluster Edition, eh? Would it be useful to have a nice research study ready in the first half of next year on such a theme? Yes? No? I suggest a name for their Ask-OSDL-To-Be-Rubes initiative: I call it Microsoft's Does Not Compute initiative.

And just in case that long list of Get the Facts wonders has you a bit brainwashed, and you are starting to think Microsoft really does have fewer security issues than Linux, and that the world is flat, do review this fact-based response by Nicholas Petreley that The Register ran. And here's the study that had reporters in the UK laughing out loud, remember?

If Microsoft wants to have nightmares, I suggest it ponder this thought just before sleeping: FOSS beats you on the one issue that you will never be able to win on, ethics. Even corporate thugs like to do business with trustworthy people. And frankly, the more tricky studies you publish, the more you highlight the ethical deficit on your side.

Nighty night, and don't let the bedbugs bite.

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