HomeBrainDump Page 3 - What we can Learn from Two Linux vs. Microsoft Studies
Keeping it Running - BrainDump
The question of which platform is better for running a business, Windows or Linux, has inspired debates that are nearly religious in their vehemence. Two studies came out this year that purport to settle the question, at least when it comes to issues of security and reliability. Do they really provide a final answer, or just more fuel for the fire?
Security is only one potential headache to deal with when handling your company’s computing platform. Interestingly, SI tried to measure “IT pain” in the creation of the study released in November 2005. It stated that the pain stems from two scenarios. The first deals with business solutions not being available when you need them – not only uptime for day to day needs, but also adding new capabilities when those business needs change (such as adding personalization to an e-commerce site). The second scenario is familiar to far too many IT professionals: “IT being able to meet business needs only through a combination of ‘heroic efforts’ to overcome unpredictable or failure-prone behavior by technologies,” leading to long hours and/or short term fixes that solve the problem this time, but don’t take the long term into account.
So what sort of metric do you use to measure IT pain? SI discussed this issue with a number of chief officers at companies to understand what factors caused business solutions to fail, and what challenges IT departments faced. SI learned that “the key to managing reliability was to choose platforms and applications that enabled IT to be efficient and facilitated a simpler environment over time.”
The methodology is interesting, because SI wanted to simulate an evolving business as closely as possible, rather than rely on benchmarks that don’t truly test a system as a whole. The firm pitted Windows 2000 Server against SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, simulating the year from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005. They also simulated an evolving e-commerce company with changing business requirements; security maintenance was also taken into consideration. At the end of the year, both systems were transitioned to more recent versions of their respective operating system.
So what kind of results did SI see? One result was that Linux’s famed modularity and granularity of control led administrators to choose “vastly different paths to resolve dependence conflicts that arose when new components were installed. The result was solutions that grew in complexity and heterogeneity rapidly over time.” Given that the study stated at the outset that simpler systems reduce IT pain, Linux would not receive high marks. Contrast that with the Microsoft side: “During the experiment, all Windows administrators followed a fairly homogeneous route to both install patches and apply component upgrades for the simulated changing business requirements.”
No wonder the study found that the Windows platform is “more consistent, predictable, and easier to manage than Linux.” On average, the Linux administrators were significantly slower than the Microsoft ones in fulfilling business objectives – partly because they experienced more system failures and needed to apply a greater number of patches to their systems. If you would like to examine the 47-page report, you can find it here.