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COMPUTING

Is Linux or NT better for important tasks?

November 17, 1998
Web posted at: 5:00 PM EST

by Mark Cappel

From...


(IDG) -- In an online discussion debating the merits of Windows NT and Linux in large organizations, a Microsoft official touted Windows NT/2000's ease-of-use, the company's R&D spending, and advanced features as reasons to use its operating system. Meanwhile, a prominent Linux developer emphasized Linux's reliability and open development effort.

Linux, a freely available Unix-like operating system that until recently was considered a plaything for computer nerds, cheapskates, and students, is now gaining a toehold in large organizations, according to a recent study by market research firm IDC. Database vendors are porting their wares to Linux, which is required for Linux to be taken seriously by large organizations.

Most large organizations today depend on mainframes, which run proprietary operating systems, and relatively expensive servers that run one of the many versions of the Unix operating system. In departments, many organizations rely on Novell NetWare, a limited-function operating system that allows file and printer sharing.

After a characteristic stumble with its first version of Windows NT, its second try (called version 4.0) has started to sweep through large organizations, mostly at Novell's expense. With Microsoft's marketing muscle, the support of software developers, and a perception among customers that "no on ever got fired for buying Microsoft products," the company appeared to have few obstacles to dominate the high-end market in the same way it monopolizes the desktop PC market.

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Industry analysts, proponents, and users are calling Linux the most serious threat facing Windows NT (the next version is named Windows 2000).

In a forum conducted at Network World Fusion, a CNN Interactive news provider, Red Hat Software Chairman and CEO Bob Young wrote "Given the choice, control, development, services and support Red Hat Linux offers users, the question isn't whether Linux is the best choice for the enterprise -- it's how can legacy proprietary operating systems survive in an open source world?"

Ed Muth, group product manager for Microsoft's Enterprise Marketing Group, in his introductory remarks praised NT/2000's security features, and investments in making NT easy to use. "Microsoft invests more than $1 million per working hour -- more than $2 billion per year -- on research, development and channel programs to enhance the enterprise capabilities of its products. Companies such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, IBM and Cisco are investing billions of dollars in enterprise products based on Windows NT Server."

Young argued that Linux has many developers working on it as well: "Appearances can deceive. There are huge amounts of money being invested in Linux development: Companies such as Oracle, Corel and Sybase invest directly in Linux via the best-selling applications they have been porting to the operating system." Young wrote. "The software development teams at enterprises such as CERN, NASA, Boeing and Westinghouse contribute by improving the open source products they are using for internal projects."

Mark Cappel is editor-in-chief of IDG.net. Free registration is required to view Network World Fusion's NT vs Linux forum.

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