27 May Linux and Windows duke it out at ITEC
MILWAUKEE – Advocates of Windows and open-source software vied for the support of an audience at the concluding presentation of Wednesday’s session of the ITEC conference in Milwaukee.
Marc Rassbach, principle of Milestone R/D Labs, said that open-source software provides a technically superior system, but Windows has a strong appeal for companies that want a single, obvious place to turn for direction. Nevertheless, he advocated FreeBSD, an integrated open-source platform similar to Linux, which he said had a regular update schedule and clean architecture.
Elizabeth Eversoll, Microsoft practice director for Madison-based Berbee, Inc., said Microsoft provides the superior solution because it offers an integrated system rather than lots of individual components from different sources.
The debate became spirited, especially as audience members called out support for both open-source software and Microsoft.
Rassbach rated open-source software highly on the ability to fix bugs, saying that open-source software authors were often more willing to listen to bug reports and fix problems faster than Microsoft.
He said the open-source community could provide support just as good as Microsoft’s, as long as managers are willing to accept their employees getting help from mailing lists. With Microsoft, Rassbach said, employees have an easy way out by saying they just paid for technical support and were told the problem would be fixed in the next version.
“Now what’s the boss going to do, yell at Microsoft?” Rassbach said.
However, the seeming fragmentation of Linux and other open-source systems, such as FreeBSD, came up on both sides of the discussion. Linux distributions have proliferated, meaning that companies investigating their options may have a hard time figuring out which brand of Linux is for them. But there is only one Windows.
“There is no consistent message with open source other than ‘Hey, it costs nothing and it works better,’” Rassbach said.
“More and more, what I’m seeing today is that customers want a single integrated platform,” Eversoll said.
Eversoll said Windows had fewer security problems than several popular Linux distributions. She used statistics from several industry analyst groups, though some audience members disputed the numbers and Rassbach said FreeBSD, if included, would have been lower than all of them.
She pointed out that Microsoft puts $6 billion a year into research and development, and that it is easier to find partners or consultants for Windows since it is more popular.
The talk was originally supposed to be a comparison of Longhorn, the working name for the next version of Microsoft Windows, and Linux. However, conference organizers announced at the last minute that they had decided Microsoft’s decision to push Longhorn’s shipping date back to 2006 made it out of the scope of a discussion of current technology.
Stan Garvin, a UNIX system administrator with Flad & Associates, said he was not interested in Longhorn, but what is available now. Like Rassbach, he prefers FreeBSD.
“I don’t know what BSD looks like crashing,” he said. “It’s never crashed.”
Most of the arguments painted a picture of Microsoft and open-source software that is by now becoming familiar: Microsoft has an easy time keeping its foothold because of its established customer base, while the technologically robust open-source software struggles because people cannot identify it with a single entity.
Recently, Microsoft has begun specifically naming and criticizing Linux in some of its Web advertisements, which could indicate the company is getting anxious.
“Right now you see a big interest to shift,” said Robert Schmalz, owner of Associated System Engineers Consulting.
Jason Stitt is a staff writer for the Wisconsin Technology Network and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.