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Linux, OpenBSD, Windows Server Comparison: Applications

Perhaps the first and most important selection criteria for any computer is whether or not it can perform its intended function. When acquiring a new server, whether or not it is to perform an entirely new function or replace an existing server or servers, it's expected that the server will perform one or more specific functions. This is likely to come down to the question of whether or not an appropriate application is available to serve the desired function. For servers, the term application, is clearly intended to include server software applications such as databases, e-mail and groupware servers, web servers, application servers, etc.

There are multiple ways to look at this. The first and simplest is support for a specific server application. For example, if someone has already determined that the only e-mail system that will meet an organizations communications needs is Microsoft Exchange Server, then your operating system has already been selected because Exchange Server only runs on the Windows family of servers and today NT is effectively obsolete for a new server, leaving only Windows 2000 Server. It doesn't matter if the selection of Exchange was a good or bad choice, if it is a made decision, then the OS is also already selected. If Notes has instead been selected, the choice of OSs is broad, and includes Linux and Windows, but the Domino servers are not available on any version of BSD. Thus, *BSD servers would not be an appropriate solution.

If general needs have been identified but specific products have not been selected, then you can go through a normal product selection and work towards available OSs on which the selected products run. Allowing specific software servers that are selected for specific application level capabilities, to drive your server operating system choices, may result in a variety of OSs that are difficult to support, or drive you towards Windows servers when more cost effective alternatives are available. Though I've already said that standardizing both server and desktop OSs on the same OS may not achieve the hoped for staff and productivity advantages, it's also undesirable to allow a profusion of both desktop and server OSs.

Less diversity in operating systems is desirable so it may be advantageous to have a standard server and a standard desktop OS. Within these standards an occasional exception might be made on a case by case basis. For example desktop systems might be standardized on Windows 2000 but the marketing department might insist on Macintosh computers for its graphic designers. Servers might be standardized on Linux or OpenBSD but a Windows 2000 used to run a specific Microsoft product that was perceived to be not replaceable. These are just plausible examples; I'm not suggesting either configuration is generally desirable or even a good choice in any specific environment. This is simply acknowledging that in any but the smallest environments, complete standardization may not be achievable, and even in small organizations it may be difficult.

If you are trying to pick a standard server operating system, you can first look at what is generally available on the platform, or you may start with what is included with the OS by default.

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