Today is a good day to code

Microsoft wants to compete with LAMP

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Microsoft wants to compete with LAMP

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperMicrosoft wants to compete with LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl-PHP-Python. Microsoft still doesn't really get it. They are doing better, at least they are acknowledging LAMP as a threat and working on a strategy for defeating it, however they are focusing their efforts on the wrong strategy.

Focusing on TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is not the way for several reasons. The first and probably the biggest is that it says to small shops and web developers that they aren't important. TCO is usually calculated for mid-sized businesses, the issue is that most of the time the decision as to what technology platform is not in the hands of the executives, it lies at the Manager of IT level. It is here that the recommendations to upper management are made, not the other way around. The CIO often doesn't have enough contact with the technology to make the best decision for the business. They can almost always make the best decision based on the business' financial need, but if it doesn't work for their developers, then it is useless. Often the groups that are embracing LAMP are micro-businesses that really want to operate their own website, email, etc… To them, TCO with an upfront investment of $800 before they can even start hiring a developer is not acceptable. Most of these shops are running off-the-shelf PCs on SDSL that cost less than the $800 for the OS.

Then next you have the developers, who have been completely ignored by Microsoft unless they are working on IIS / .net. This is a complete slap to the face. IIS comes with every distribution of Windows XP / 2000. Many are running pirated copies because the $299 cost of the OS is too much. Also, if they purchased their development PC as a cheap Dell or some other vendor, then they probably didn't get IIS installed, and they probably don't have access to the media. Their hosting company may support IIS as most do, however being able to develop and test locally is a big plus. If I am a developer and I am somewhat saavy, I'm going to download Linux, buy crossover office, and spend the little cash that I have on the Macromedia / Adobe Suite MX, because then I can work on Flash and Dreamweaver at least, and if I am not sold on PHP, or it is too complicated or limited, I can start developing using ColdFusion, which is available for download and will run on almost anything.

These two groups are not interested in TCO. They need to get their ideas going today. This is what Microsoft is missing, they may get wins with corporate IT departments, but if startups are using LAMP, then they will miss out on the future dollars because the micro-business of today will be the large to midsize business of the future. If they already have their knowledge invested in LAMP then there is no real reason for them to switch.

The last situation is that many businesses are less certain of the dominance of windows than they were before. They want to have the option of changing platforms if another offers them an advantage. Right now if a shop develops their web applications using IIS, they are locked in to Microsoft for the forseeable future. Which is where ColdFusion is making headway in corporations that may be uncomfortable with OSS (Open Source Software) for whatever reason. They can have support from a solid company, once Macromedia, and now Adobe, they have an application server that can run on any platform, scales, and is relatively inexpensive to boot. If they are comfortable with OSS, then PHP is extremely attractive. Developers are plentiful and it is equally portable, even to windows servers.

Developers take issue with the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) situation from Microsoft, in the past getting Visual Studio was very expensive. Microsoft has addressed this with making the beta versions available for free, but in the web development environment, Dreamweaver is highly dominant. ASP.net is much more difficult without Microsoft's tools, where PHP, ColdFusion, and even Python can be written with any number of free tools to help developers like textpad. If you aren't into free, then you can use Dreamweaver which I have used for PHP and ColdFusion development. I haven't even thought about using ASP.net except for recently.

Having said all that, and working in a mostly Microsoft shop right now, I can say that with the exception of ASP.net, which has been making strides, the Microsoft applications perform well. We are running ColdFusion MX 6.1 on IIS on Windows Server 2000 backends. Our desktop environment is Windows 2000 and Dreamweaver. The database server is Microsoft SQL Server 2000. I have to say that Microsoft SQL Server 2000 has been proving itself to be very useful. The reporting features are very useful, and the ability to use views and stored procedures is nice. Coming from exclusive MySQL use, I can say that SQL Server appears to be more user friendly and perform at least as well, sometimes better than MySQL. MySQL however is about to release their 5.0 version that adds at least stored procedures to their system as well as better reporting tools. Again it is unfortunate that SQL Server only runs on windows which makes it impossible for me to run it in my personal development environment, Mac OS X.

If Microsoft really wants to beat LAMP, they should realize that sometimes people don't want to run Windows for whatever reason, and offer IIS / SQL Server for Linux / Solaris / Etc… That way people could develop using IIS on their platform of choice. If the price was reasonable, say $149 for the combo, they would have many more takers, and ASP.net may become viable. If they threw a lightweight version of exchange in the bundle and raised the price to $299, I'd say that they would probably crush LAMP. But since Microsoft won't do that because they are of the opinion that companies should be nickeled and dimed to death through their current licensing scheme so that they can fatten their bottom line once they get lock in, they will never defeat LAMP, and you can expect to see much more from these technologies in the near future.

CNET article about MS vs LAMP
MSDN has the betas of visual studio
PHP.net