October 4, 1999
With all the recent attention around Linux as an operating system, it's important
to step back from the hype and look at the reality. First, it's worth noting that
Linux is a UNIX-like operating system. Linux fundamentally relies on 30-year-old
operating system technology and architecture. Linux was not designed from the ground-up
to support symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP), graphical user interfaces (GUI), asynchronous
I/O, fine-grained security model, and many other important characteristics of a
modern operating system. These architectural limitations mean that as customers
look for a platform to cost effectively deploy scalable, secure, and robust applications,
Linux simply cannot deliver on the hype.
Myth: Linux performs better than Windows NT
Reality: Windows NT 4.0 Outperforms Linux On Common Customer Workloads
The Linux community claims to have improved performance and scalability in the
latest versions of the Linux Kernel (2.2), however it's clear that Linux remains
inferior to the Windows NT® 4.0 operating system.
- For File and Print services, according to independent tests conducted by
PC Week Labs [ http://www.zdnet.com/products/stories/reviews/0,4161,1015266,00.html
], the Windows NT 4.0 operating system delivers 52 percent better performance
on a single processor system and 110 percent better performance on a 4-way system
than similarly configured single processor and 4-way Linux/SAMBA systems.
- For Web servers, the same PC Week tests showed Windows NT 4.0 with Internet
Information Server 4.0 delivers 41 percent better performance on a single processor
system and 125 percent better performance on a 4-way system than Linux and Apache.
- For e-commerce workloads using secure sockets (SSL), recent PC Magazine
tests [ http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/stories/reviews/0,6755,402311-2,00.html ]
showed Windows NT 4.0 with Internet Information Server 4.0 delivers approximately
five times the performance provided by Linux and Stronghold.
- For transaction-orientated Line of Business applications, Windows NT 4.0
has achieved a result of 40,368 tpmC at a cost of $18.46 per transaction on
a Compaq 8-Way Pentium III XEON processor-based system. This industry leading
price/performance result from the Transaction Processing Performance Council
(TPC) [ http://www.tpc.org/ ] clearly shows how Windows NT can deliver world-class
performance for heavy duty transaction processing. It's interesting to note
that there is not a single TPC result on any database running on Linux, and
therefore Linux has yet to demonstrate their capabilities as a database server.
- Linux performance and scalability is architecturally limited in the 2.2
Kernel. Linux only supports 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM on the x86 architecture,1
compared to 4 GB for Windows NT 4.0. The largest file size Linux supports is
2 GB versus 16 terabytes (TB) for Windows NT 4.0. The Linux SWAP file is limited
to 128 MB. In addition, Linux does not support many of the modern operating
system features that Windows NT 4.0 has pioneered such as asynchronous I/O,
completion ports, and fine-grained kernel locks. These architecture constraints
limit the ability of Linux to scale well past two processors.
- The Linux community continues to promise major SMP and performance improvements.
They have been promising these since the development of the 2.0 Kernel in 1996.
Delivering a scalable system is a complex task and it's not clear that the Linux
community can solve these issues easily or quickly. As D. H. Brown Associates
noted in a recent technical report,2 the Linux 2.2 Kernel remains in the early
stages of providing a tuned SMP kernel.
Myth: Linux is more reliable than Windows NT
Reality: Linux Needs Real World Proof Points Rather than Anecdotal Stories
The Linux community likes to talk about Linux as a stable and reliable operating
system, yet there are no real world data or metrics and very limited customer evidence
to back up these claims.
- Windows NT 4.0 has been proven in demanding customer environments to be
a reliable operating system. Customers such as Barnes and Noble, The Boeing
Company, Chicago Stock Exchange, Dell Computer, Nasdaq and many others run mission-critical
applications on Windows NT 4.0.
- Linux lacks a commercial quality Journaling File System. This means that
in the event of a system failure (such as a power outage) data loss or corruption
is possible. In any event, the system must check the integrity of the file system
during system restart, a process that will likely consume an extended amount
of time, especially on large volumes and may require manual intervention to
reconstruct the file system.
- There are no commercially proven clustering technologies to provide High
Availability for Linux. The Linux community may point to numerous projects and
small companies that are aiming to deliver High Availability functionality.
D. H. Brown recently noted that these offerings remain immature and largely
unproven in the demanding business world.
- There are no OEMs that provide uptime guarantees for Linux, unlike Windows
NT where Compaq, Data General, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Unisys provide 99.9
percent system-level uptime guarantees for Windows NT-based servers.
Myth: Linux is Free
Reality: Free Operating System Does Not Mean Low Total Cost of Ownership
The Linux community will talk about the free or low-cost nature of Linux. It's important
to understand that licensing cost is only a small part of the overall decision-making
process for customers.
- The cost of the operating system is only a small percentage of the overall
total cost of ownership (TCO). In general Windows NT has proven to have a lower
cost of ownership than UNIX. Previous studies have shown that Windows NT has
37 percent lower TCO than UNIX [ http://www.microsoft.com/NTServer/nts/exec/Compares/LowerTCO.asp
]. There is no reason to believe that Linux is significantly different than
other versions of UNIX when it comes to TCO.
- The very definition of Linux as an Open Software effort means that commercial
companies like Red Hat will make money by charging for services. Therefore,
commercial support services for Linux will be fee-based and will likely be priced
at a premium. These costs have to be factored into the total cost model.
- Linux is a UNIX-like operating system and is therefore complex to configure
and manage. Existing UNIX users may find the transition to Linux easier but
administrators for existing Windows®-based or Novell environments will find
it more difficult to handle the complexity of Linux. This retraining will add
significant costs to Linux deployments.
- Linux is a higher risk option than Windows NT. For example how many certified
engineers are there for Linux? How easy is it to find skilled development and
support people for Linux? Who performs end-to-end testing for Linux-based solutions?
These factors and more need to be taken into account when choosing a platform
for your business.
Myth: Linux is more secure than Windows NT
Reality: Linux Security Model Is Weak
All systems are vulnerable to security issues, however it's important to note that
Linux uses the same security model as the original UNIX implementations--a model
that was not designed from the ground up to be secure.
- Linux only provides access controls for files and directories. In contrast,
every object in Windows NT, from files to operating system data structures,
has an access control list and its use can be regulated as appropriate.
- Linux security is all-or-nothing. Administrators cannot delegate administrative
privileges: a user who needs any administrative capability must be made a full
administrator, which compromises best security practices. In contrast, Windows
NT allows an administrator to delegate privileges at an exceptionally fine-grained
- Linux has not supported key security accreditation standards. Every member
of the Windows NT family since Windows NT 3.5 has been evaluated at either a
C2 level under the U.S. Government's evaluation process or at a C2-equivalent
level under the British Government's ITSEC process. In contrast, no Linux products
are listed on the U.S. Government's evaluated product list.
- Linux system administrators must spend huge amounts of time understanding
the latest Linux bugs and determining what to do about them. This is made complex
due to the fact that there isn't a central location for security issues to be
reported and fixed. In contrast Microsoft provides a single security repository
for notification and fixes of security related issues [ http://microsoft.com/security
- Configuring Linux security requires an administrator to be an expert in
the intricacies of the operating system and how components interact. Misconfigure
any part of the operating system and the system could be vulnerable to attack.
Windows NT security is easy to set up and administer with tools such as the
Security Configuration Editor.
Myth: Linux can replace Windows on the desktop
Reality: Linux Makes No Sense at
Linux as a desktop operating system makes no sense. A user would end up with a system
that has fewer applications, is more complex to use and manage, and is less intuitive.
- Linux does not provide support for the broad range of hardware in use today;
Windows NT 4.0 currently supports over 39,000 systems and devices on the Hardware
Compatibility List. Linux does not support important ease-of-use technologies
such as Plug and Play, USB, and Power Management
- The complexity of the Linux operating system and cumbersome nature of the
existing GUIs would make retraining end-users a huge undertaking and would add
- Linux application support is very limited, meaning that customers end up
having to build their own horizontal and vertical applications. A recent report
from Forrester Research highlighted the fact that today 93 percent of enterprise
ISVs develop applications for Windows NT, while only 13 percent develop for
The Linux operating system is not suitable for mainstream usage by business
or home users. Today with Windows NT 4.0, customers can be confident in delivering
applications that are scalable, secure, and reliable--yet cost effective to deploy
and manage. Linux clearly has a long way to go to be competitive with Windows NT
4.0. With the release of the Windows 2000 operating system, Microsoft extends the
technical superiority of the platform even further ensuring that customers can deliver
the next generation applications to solve their business challenges.
See how these leading companies and organizations have deployed
Windows NT Server 4.0:
- Nasdaq [ http://microsoft.com/ntserver/nts/exec/casestudy/casestudy/nasdaq.asp
- Barnes & Noble [ http://www.microsoft.com/dns/ecommerce/Barnes.htm ]
- Dell Computer Corp [ http://www.microsoft.com/dns/ecommerce/dell.htm ]
- The Boeing Company [ http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/55/casestudies/boeing.htm
- Chicago Stock Exchange [ http://microsoft.com/ntserver/nts/exec/casestudy/casestudy/CHX.asp
See Industry Benchmarks Show Windows NT Server 4.0 Outperforms
Linux [ http://microsoft.com/ntserver/nts/exec/compares/ntlinux.asp ]
1. Siemens & SuSE announced a patch in September 1999 to extend to 4
GB, although this is not part of the 2.2 Kernel or major distributions.
2. Linux: How Good Is It? D. H. Brown Associates Inc. April 1999
3. Forrester Research, Software Vendors Crown Server OS Kings, Aug. 31, 1999