Subject: Re: support for a small US college going GNU?
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2005 01:33:04 -0700
Tue, 19 Jul 2005 01:33:04 -0700
on Mon, Jul 18, 2005 at 09:19:27PM -0400, David Kaufman ( wrote:
> Hi Joe,
> Joe Corneli wrote:
> >I've been corresponding a little with the new CIO of my "alma mater"
> >(New College of Florida, a small public "liberal arts" school in
> >Sarasota) about switching the college over to GNU/Linux [...] the CIO,
> >Erich Matola, points out that switching architectures would require
> >funding.  Presumably this is true;
> Of course.  Not switching requires funding, too.  

Good point.  The naive calulus is:

  LINUX COST    > 0

...therefore GNU/Linux loses.

> Funds are used to periodically upgrade staff PC's in different
> departments at different times, adding memory, more storage, or
> completely new machines, as the older ones become too old to be
> useful.  Funds are expended to upgrade those same PC's to more recent
> versions of Windows, as this user needs some new feature or that one
> needs some new program that is not avilable on the older version of
> Windows.

I suspect you're both distorting software costs and leaving out a major
component of Windows costs.

Most academic environments secure dramtic discounts on software.  Client
OS + office suite licensing for Microsoft products is on the order of
$30 - $50 for OS and apps, each (net ~$60 - $100).  Steeper discounts
may be available, this is just what I've seen published in the past year
or so.

On enough desktops, the per-unit differential  does  add up, but not as
fast as a naive (retail, home, or business pricing) estimate would

However there are additional costs for Windows, most notably:

   - Software:  each of the following run ~$10 - $50 per client, even
     with academic discount

      - Anti-virus software.
      - Anti-spyware software.
      - System freeze software (e.g.:  DeepFreeze).
      - System imaging software.

   - Admin time to apply software to systems, build images, recover
     systems, etc.

   - Capability lost through lack of flexibility in systems, whether
     this is the ability to differentiate systems, or the inability to
     offer capabilities through lack of suitably secure software or time
     to address issues.

   - Downtime and redundancy required to address shortcomings of the
     existing legacy MS Windows infrastructure.
> Ask the CIO to ask the CFO for a report of past expenses, per year,
> for PC hardware upgrades and new copies of whichever Windows Upgrade
> was new that year.  Then explain to them that Linux upgrades are free
> and, since Linux tolerates older hardware far longer than Windows
> does, all those O/S upgrades won't necessitate corresponding
> *hardware* upgrades to battle the "my PC got slow" reports that come
> in after the XP upgrades go out.

    Developers, developers, developers!
    - Steve Ballmer, 2001

    Maintenance costs, maintenance costs, maintenance costs!
    - Karsten Self, 2005

Software costs are a small component of total system costs.

GNU/Linux benefits:

  - Increased reliability.
  - Increased security.
  - Improved performance.
  - Increased system capabilities.
  - Increased system flexibility.
  - Reduced vendor lock-in.
  - Increased ability to trial new software.
  - Decreased hardware requirements.
  - Increased hardware lifetime.
  - And yes, lower software costs.

But most of all:


GNU/Linux and FSF Free Software free you from being tied to a single
vendor of:

  - Operating systems.
  - Applications.
  - Services.
  - Hardware.

Don't underestimate the value of removing constraints in optimizing
organizational performance.

> If you find that the Windows license expenses are (curiously) far too
> small to account for all the windows machines in use (because they
> don't "track those closely enough") or because they "just use the
> O/S's that come with the new PC's" and then "share" a few upgrade CD's
> among them all later on as needed, offer to walk around with him and
> take a quick count of the number of Windows machines *running* XP or
> Server 2003 as compared to the number of machines that were purchased
> *with* those latest versions of Windows, plus the number of retail
> Windows upgrades they actually bought, and you can quickly see out how
> much it would cost for them to "get into compliance" with their
> current use of Windows licenses, were they to need to do so in a
> hurry, as per the audit agreements they've agreed to, by merely
> tearing open Windows shrinkwrap.

I suspect what you'll find instead are sitewide licensing agreements
which minimize much of this overhead, and a willingness to accomodate
any discrepencies, so long as the resolution involves rooting out any of
that cancerous, viral, weed-like software stuff....
> Be sure to point out that most, if not all, corporate IT departments and 
> small businesses also find that they have easily, even unintentionally 
> fallen out of compliance because it is nearly impossible to track, and 
> MS licenses seldom enforced.  But ask them, why run an O/S that has such 
> a high legal risk attached to it?  

To you and me, the legal risk associated with GNU/Linux (Microsoft / Sun
attack dog Caldera/SCO notwithstanding) is low.  And the likelihood of a
vigorous defense being prosecuted by IBM / HP / Intel / AMD is high.
But businesses (and boards of regents) are risk averse and slow to grok,
so you may want to hone your arguments here.

Noting that Microsoft customers have been directly threatened with
lawsuits due to patent and/or copyright infringement within Microsoft
products might prove useful.


Karsten M. Self <>
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    There are no "free lunches", but sometimes it costs more to collect money
    than to give away food.

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