The topic is a fairly interesting one. Microsoft commissioned Veritest to create a scenario in which Linux and Windows administrators had to undertake a variety of tasks, such as provisioning servers and replicating data while responding to various failures and outages.
The Windows administrators completed 21 percent more of the proactive tasks, according to the study, which was released on Tuesday night. Microsoft also said that Windows Server 2003 administrators caught four times as many issues that would have resulted in a loss of service than did the testers using Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Microsoft general manager Martin Taylor said the impetus for the study was Linux's great reputation for reliability, but he contended that much of the reason for that is due to its extensive use as an edge server.
"I'm not saying Linux is not reliable," Taylor said. In fact, both operating systems tend to do so well in general uptime comparisons that faults have to be introduced in order to gauge reliability.
But compared side by side, Taylor said Windows has the advantage and that the new study backs that up. The latest study will no doubt form the basis for another prong in Microsoft's anti-Linux "Get the Facts" marketing campaign.
Competitors immediately shot back at Microsoft's tactics.
"Red Hat does not rely on funded studies to prove the value of Red Hat Enterprise Linux," spokeswoman Leigh Day said. "We rely on the testament of our customers."
Day noted a number of recent customer successes, including Ticketmaster, which is using Red Hat Linux and Strongmail to do all of its e-mail with customers.
Mail was a strong point for Linux in the Veritest study, which found e-mail to be one of the areas in which Linux outshined Windows. Taylor noted that few of the Microsoft administrators used in the study had experience with Microsoft's Exchange e-mail server software.
Another survey, this one done by Yankee Group and not paid for by Microsoft, found that Windows servers were more resilient in the face of a security attack. That study found that on average, Windows servers recover 30 percent faster from a security attack than Linux (an average of 13 hours to restore Windows servers compared with 17.5 hours for a Linux machine).
Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio said the difference in downtime did not reflect more flaws in Linux or other fundamental disadvantages of the open source OS. "What it really has to do with is the lack of documentation in Linux," DiDio said, noting the lack of a central repository that administrators can turn to. "They are spending a lot more time troubleshooting."
While the Linux downtime may have been less, DiDio said the cost for each hour Windows was down was three to four times greater than that of a Linux outage. Yankee analyst Laura DiDio attributed that to the fact that more business-critical data is stored on Windows servers.