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LinuxWorld: Total Cost of Ownership Series Revisited

Apr 05, 2002, 13:00 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Murphy)

"To most people, the total cost of ownership (TCO) concept is about checks written. It relates to the total cost of the decision to own or use something, and implies that the decision between two choices -- A and B -- can be largely determined by comparing the total costs associated with each. Implicitly this assumes that A and B produce similar value, or returns to ownership. Since this is rarely the case, most uses of the TCO concept in decision making extend the idea beyond a simple "sum of checks written" to incorporate some acknowledgment of the differences in benefits available from each choice -- even when those differences are largely unquantifiable.

"In the specific context of the Unix versus Windows decision, the most obvious problem with our understanding of the cost components going into the TCO idea is that we cannot determine whether Unix is cheaper than Windows without first defining the terms of the comparison, and then the basis for making judgments about the results of the comparison. Defining what we're comparing isn't that difficult. While "Windows" is a brand label, not a product or set of ideas, "Unix" is a name for a set of ideas encapsulated in a wide variety of products.

"We can define comparisons in terms of real products embedded in specific business and technology contexts. For this series, those definitions were couched in terms of the system architectures implied by the labels. Thus "Windows" means Windows client-server with a PC on every desktop and applications on shared servers accessed via local area networks (LANs); while "Unix" means Unix servers with applications delivered via desktop smart displays (defined below) and single-level networking..."

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