Linux vs Windows Servers: Notttt Exactly

All the OS pundits have been portraying the final battle for OS Server dominance as a pre-ordained contest between Windows 2003 and successors versus Linux in its RedHat, Novell/Suse, Mandrake and other forms. The proprietary Unixes such as AIX and HPUx have been assigned to the scrap heap of Novell Netware, OS/400, and the Bunch. Its all nicely forshadowed and forecasted and as good as ….

Well .. notttt exactly.

Two strange bedfellas – Sun and Apple – have just upped the ante quite considerably by issuing 64bit versions of their OS with killer price tags (free + Open Source and $999 for unlimited numbers of users) and unbelievably nice extra attractions (see below). But each also has the Unix curse and blessing. The curse is a limited set of applications relative to Windows and even Linux; the blessing is rock solid reliability and security that Windows Servers still only aspire to. And if you believe the Microsoft Get the Flaks campaign Ive got an instant Purple Heart for you. Windows Servers have improved their reliability, availability and security record ? No doubt. Is it comparable to Solaris and Mach/BSD(the base for Apple OS/X) ? No way.

The Applications Hurdle

But lets take a good look at the question of applications. There is a new generation of applications coming into play – call them open and interoperable. They are primarily Java based servers and/or Web Service enabled. Think BEA, Plumtree, and HummingBird dashboards and portals; Business Objects, BIRT, Cognos, Hyperion, and Microstrategy Business Financial Reporting and Scorecarding; BEA, IBM, JBoss, Oracle, and Tomcat Application Servers; Altio, Adobe/Macromedia, Droplets and Nexaweb rich client presentation services,BEA, IBM, Sonic, Tibco and others in messaging middleware; IBM, MySQL, PostGreSQL, Oracle, Sybase database servers. And on and on in every major IT service category.

A sizable percentage (but by no means majority) are Open Source. But with support licenses reaching purchase prices this is becoming less meaningful as a measure of total cost of operations. See how much RedHat costs versus Solaris with Service and Apple OS/X with service and Windows 2003 with Service – this is the basis of the Microsoft Get the Flaps campaign. What is omitted, neglected or ignored by the Redmond sleight of hand is the total picture on reliability, scalability, availability, security administration costs and performance comparisons. And one other critical measure – interoperability.

Microsoft is deliberately setting up a Gated Community of Windows Servers, Applications and Systems which are designed to run best on Windows often at the sacrifice of interoperability. Yes, Microsoft pays lip service to Web Services as as its gateway to interoperability knowing full well that this is its insurance that “everything will run faster and better in Windows”. It is also very careful not to offer any scripting or programming interoperability between Windows and other platforms. JavaScript has been proprietized and frozen as JScript; Java has been forced to an obsolete version on Windows desktops until at least 2007.

Meanwhile, because many of these open applications are either Unix or Java based, porting them to the Linux, Solaris and/or Apple OS/X environs is either already done or relatively trivial to do. And given that Microsoft is adopting a Blitzkrieg approach to ever broader markets – see what Redmond has done in the BI marketplace and plans to do in the Business Applications/ERP markets. So rational major independent software vendors have had to start investing bigtime but discreetly in a Windows exit strategy. Hence the need for more ISVs to move to open and interoperable OS platforms. So now the question is what can Apple and Sun offer those ISVs ?

The Attractions

Common to both OS/X and Solaris 10 are the low price of entry, especially for developers, outstanding reliability and heavily beefed up security and scalability. In addition each has its own set of capabilities.

Apple OS/X Tigers
new and improved features:

1)Direct support and integration of over 100 Open Source applications:
– OpenSource ClamAV antivirus and Spam Assassin mail cleanup are 2 examples in security;
– Jabber, XMPP, Bloxsom are examples in instant messaging and RSS Blogging Server;
2)Continued improvements to BSD Mach Kernel base:
– improved multithreading in multiple server contexts;
– symmetric multiprocessing with fallback services;
– 64bit development and deployment options;
– 64bit math and image libraries with portable LP64 format;
– 64 bit file system with huge exabyte capacities;
– OS multithreading/multiprocessing without app multithreading.
3)Improved performance through OS tuning:
– unified buffer caching for minimizing disk accesses;
– improved kernel resouce locking for less contention;
4)Advanced Networking improvements
– IPV6 new IP addressing standard with IPv4 to IPv6 gateway
– multinetworking, multihoming allows support of many different IP homes pages;
– IPSec upgrade and IP over Firewire improves IP workspace
– VLAN and Jumbo frames for greater networking flexibility
5)Improved Security infrastructure:
– improved SSH(Secure Shell) and SSL(Secure Socket Layers);
– support of Windows XP compatible ACL for secure and compatible access control;
– CDSA and Kerberos for open standards security and signon services;
– file access with Unix and/or ACL, Unix or not case sensitivity .
6)High Availability Services
– Watchdog monitor process tracking
– IP failover services to save IP address in multi-processor system;
– enhanced auto-restart, disk mirroring, disk space monitoring.
7)New basic iGrid services.
And here are independent appraisalsof Apple OS/X Tiger from eWeek and LinuxPipeline.

Sun Solaris X new and improved features:

1)Performance enhancements:
– sets new performance standards for Java, Web and database benchmarks;
– full 64 bit implementation with huge addressability and throughput;
– multipage size support and threading enhancements
2)Data management services and options:
– improved UFS-Unix File Systems, NFS network files system;
– future delivery of ZFS for massive storage and and redundancy
– Volume managers improved failover and pooling
3)Reliability and security improvements/features:
– better User rights and process management
– improved Solaris IP Firewall plus file integrity and secure execution;
– new containers technology provides highly secure alternate to virtual machines;
– self-healing spots CPU, disk, and component dysfuntion before they go critical ;
– DTrace for systematic troubleshotting of ongoing OS and app processes;
– other powerful system analysis and performance tracking tools and reports;
4)Networking advancements:
– full IPv6 deployment including tunneling to IPV4;
– rewrite of IP stack improves TCP/IP performance by 50%;
– layer 3 multipathing provides reduncancy and security;
– Telephony API supports VOIP, STCP, and SIP and other streaming protocols;
5)Embracing Opensource and Interoperability
– OS is Open Source with extremely flexible licensing provisions
– includes Apache, Samba, sendmail, IP Filter, Perl, PHP and other open sooftware
– maintains high Linux compatibilitywith libraries for GLib, zlib, TCL/Tk and zsh, nbash, KDE, Gnome support;
– future update will allow loading unmodified Linux binaries and running on Solaris
6)Better system utilization:
– ready server consolidation with backward support to Solaris 2.6
– application isolation with Solaris containers
– rapid application development JES-Java Enterprise System, JDS-Java Desktop System, PHP, Perl, Sun Studio, etc.
And here are independent appraisals of Solaris 10 from Information Week and InfoWorld.


The bottom line is this – Apples OS/x Tiger and Suns Solaris 10 offer not only end users viable alternative operating systems both on the desktop and certainly on the server side. ISVs ,who are increasingly under attack from Microsoft as it deems ever larger chunks of the Windows applications market reserved for itself, also now have a much more viable and attractive OS choices to make. It does not have to be Linux. Both Apple and Sun offer some very attractive alternatives.

Apple provides a constantly improving UI interface, strong desktop presence especially in multimedia and creative applications . And the new OS with its inclusion of open software as part of the Tiger OS provides open and non-proprietary entree for ISVs worried about exchanging one proprietary OS in Windows for another in Apple OS/X. But most important of all some of the Longhorn-now leads that Apple is delivering have to be given very careful consideration by developers.

Sun Solaris offers two hardware platforms – X86 in all its forms and Sun Sparc – plus unmatched reliability and security. To this Sun has added grid computing capabilities for serious on-demand expansion and contraction of seasonal or cyclical IT services plus very robust execution containers. And the desktop workbench possibilities, especially with multi-core chips first from AMD then Intel and Sun itself coming down the pike are very attractive. The bottom line is this – developers and end users alike – if you want independence from EULA and Software Assurance and dictatorial/imperial/rapacious software “partnering”, you now have not one but three very attractive choices.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005

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