% fortune -ae paul murphy

Microsoft's advice: when all else fails: lie about performance

PC magazine's Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine Online recently ran a feature by Rich Freeman entitled: Winning the Linux Wars that started out with this heart warming anecdote about a sale saved for Microsoft by a loyal Microsoft Gold Certified Partner:

"Microsoft came in and pitched Exchange and SharePoint and so forth to the customer and said the licensing was going to be $500,000, give or take," he says. Then another vendor came along and proposed a Linux-based solution with licensing price tag that was hard to beat: zero. That's when Microsoft called in Neudesic.

"Fortunately, I had an opportunity to meet with the chairman of the board," Marshall recalls. He urged that executive to focus on the overall cost of implementing and supporting the solution, rather than just on the underlying software's sticker price. From that perspective, Marshall argued, going with Microsoft would require an $800,000 outlay all told, "but in order to rebuild all of the things that SharePoint provides, it was going to be $1.1 million" if the customer chose Linux. "So there was a $300,000 difference, despite the fact that Linux is free," Marshall observes. Neudesic won the deal.

and concluded with this bit of advice:

Going head to head: When all else fails, Henson draws on a proven deal clincher: performance shoot-outs. Building stripped-down application prototypes on Windows and Linux and then running them side by side has made the difference for his firm in at least half a dozen cases. I am a strong proponent of not just telling our clients that Windows is a more robust, more reliable operating system, but actually showing them," Henson says. "When the playing field is level, Windows outperforms Linux every time." Armed with the performance card, IT managers caught between rival Windows and Linux camps can defend choosing Windows by saying that "it's not a decision from my gut, it's not a religious decision -- the evidence showed that Windows was better," says Henson.

Bottom line: While addressing TCO and security are also essential, a good performance shoot-out usually kills any Linux deal.

This is great stuff, part of a wide ranging and highly successful Microsoft pushback against Linux aimed at reversing popular perceptions of Linux as free, fast, and secure.

What's cool about this program from Microsoft's viewpoint is that it's their people who get to play all the leading roles: they make the rules for the comparison, they set up the Linux machine used in the tests, they make the dollar estimates used in the comparisons, and they write the reports.

Does anyone think matching Sharepoint and Exchange functionality on Linux, or any other current Unix, would cost $1.1 million for any number of users? I don't. Does anyone think installing a half million dollars worth of Microsoft licensed software would be free of any cost? I don't.

Does anyone think someone knowledgeable about, and committed to, Linux couldn't set up a Linux server to beat Windows/XP server hands down on just about any benchmark? I don't.

But, does anyone think your friendly local Microsoft Gold Certified Partner is likely to invite a Linux expert to participate? I don't think so - remember that wonderfully damning Security Innovations report (see if (Windows Rules) then (Linux fails) ) in which they did everything the Windows way to rig a reliability comparison between Windows and Linux? This is part of that same attack strategy: give a Windows bigot both sides of the argument and see which one wins.

On the other hand, it does give me an idea: maybe one of the Linux businesses should offer a free review service for customers facing Microsoft Certified cost and performance reports - after all, if the adversarial system works in the courts, maybe it would work here too.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.