Unix Beats Windows and Linux Data Centers in Economies of Scale

September, 2007

Benchmarking data center cost is becoming more complex as virtualization becomes the norm in many IT organizations. With a single physical server capable of running multiple copies of the operating system, it becomes less and less relevant to benchmark spending based on the number of boxes. Many data center cost items, such as software and labor, are incurred largely at the OS level. Therefore, cost metrics should be based on the number of server instances, regardless of the number of physical servers.

In previous research, we presented costs per server instance for Windows, Linux, and Unix servers based on data center cost surveys conducted over the past 12-months. That analysis showed a wide variation between the average-, high-, and low-cost respondents.

One reason for this variation–but certainly not the only reason–is data center size. Intuitively, most IT managers understand that data center cost is subject to economy of scale. For example, larger data centers can enjoy greater discounts on equipment and software. They can also use automated tools to make support personnel more productive.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Windows and Linux Data Centers Lag Behind Unix in Realizing Economies of Scale. Based on statistics provided by our partner Metric Based Assessments LLC, the full version of this report examines total data center spending per server OS instance across data centers of varying sizes. We break down these metrics for Windows, Linux, and Unix systems. Interestingly, Unix data centers experience significantly better economies of scale than Windows or Linux shops. We report the statistics and examine three reasons for the greater efficiencies in large Unix shops compared to other operating systems.

Does this mean that Unix is inherently more cost-effective in larger data centers? We do not believe so. Rather, our analysis suggests that larger organizations have untapped economies of scale in their Windows and Linux data centers. However, these benefits can only be realized if Windows and Linux professionals learn from the experiences of managers in older, legacy environments.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Windows and Linux Data Centers Lag Behind Unix in Realizing Economies of Scale. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website at https://avasant.com/report/windows-and-linux-data-centers-lag-behind-unix-in-realizing-economies-of-scale-2007/ (click for pricing).

A comprehensive set of data center benchmarks are available in Mark Levin’s book, Best Practices and Benchmarks in the Data Center.