Community: Rebuttal of "RedNova: WinServer Vs. Linux Study Generates Fire"Jun 14, 2005, 23:30 (19 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Peter Surda)
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I read this paper on Sunday before it was posted on LT. It says, among other things, "we are genuinely committed to an open and professional dialogue about technology." So I wrote a rebuttal and sent it to the authors via email. I thought perhaps making it public would make some sense too, there is nothing personal in it. So here is it, straight out of my outbox:
I just read your paper "Evaluation No. 1: Enterprise Operating Systems" and immediately had the urge to reply and correct several mistakes.
First of all, however, let me state that I am not "officially" impartial. I have my own Linux distribution and provide commercial Linux services. Furthermore, I only have limited experience with Microsoft Windows. However, I will try to stay objective.
I would also like to say that not all mentioned Linux problems were assessed wrongly. There are some very valid critique points. However, I won't elaborate on this, neither on the areas I don't have enough experience in to make an objective analysis (such as LDAP). Also please keep in mind that I don't get paid for this, so I can't spend much time crafting this response, and hence some parts may not be completely clear or stylistically correct.
I would like to begin with the quotation:
"In addition to being a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, our Linux tester was also certified an LPI by the Linux Professional Institute. Most recently, he has spent the past five years as a Linux consultant..."
Several passages of the paper shed some serious doubts about this claim (for example, both graphical remote administration and Automated Software Distribution & Maintenance are provided in both mentioned Linux distributions and are easy to use, see below). As I have no reasons to suspect the mistakes were intentional, the only conclusion left is that the person evaluating Linux had in fact very little practical experience with it.
Most of the problems were in my opinion caused by what I'd call "handling Linux as if it were Windows," i.e., using the same methodology, processes and infrastructure. Every experienced Linux administrator will tell you that this leads to a failure. I have seen this happen many times. This means that many of the perceived mistakes were not Linux' fault, but fault of the organisation, who thinks in Microsoft. In order to use Linux effectively, you have to think in Linux. The same holds in the opposite direction too: if I wanted to setup and operate a Windows network, I would almost certainly fail because I would want to treat Windows as if it were Linux, and I already realized several times that this simply doesn't work, but only after I wasted many hours of my time.
For starters, in many situations of making a company-wide linux desktop deployment, it makes much more sense to use thin-clients. Both mentioned linux distributions provide tools to do so (X, VNC) and there are additional products available (for example NoMachine NX). Using thin clients instead of "normal" desktop leads to dramatic cost reduction both in downtime and administration. I have been using a thin client as my primary "computer" for about 2.5 years both for work and private use. The machine I usually use is a real thin client (specialized hardware). This response was also created "on" it. Additionaly, wherever in the world I am and regardless of what OS is installed locally, if I want to work, I just SSH into my server and reattach the VNC session over the SSH tunnel. In Linux use vncviewer and openssh, in Windows also vncviewer but putty. So I am confident that using thin clients should work in almost all typical situations.
Furthermore, you correctly point out that setting up and administering linux requires more experience. I find it however strange that in light of this you didn't contact a professional. A professional can set up typical configurations much faster.
Another aspect of "Linux thinking" is automation. Experienced linux administrators automate typical and recurring tasks, so that setting up new machines or administering larger numbers becomes cheaper. Linux has all the necessary tools to do so. These economies of scale only show up when you actually have such large numbers and know how to automate, and are not reproducible on a small scale. I know this from personal experience, I administer several dozens of machines and co-administer many networks, the largest one consisting of about 1400 computers.
In general you can make use of this by outsourcing certain parts of your IT to a professional company that specializes in Linux and has the tools for automation. This way you'll save money and don't have to worry about understanding how LDAP or pptpd works.
Now to the specific points.
"Automated Software Distribution & Maintenance"
"Installing & Configuring Printers"
"Desktop Security Management"
"Remote Server Management"
"...it was difficult to delegate server administration to
I omitted several parts, which was as I stated before either because I agree with them or because I don't have enough experience in that areas.
In summary, I consider your paper usable to some extent, but it should be relabled "If you want to use Linux but still think in Microsoft, this is how you will fail, so don't do it." In case you would like to make another Linux evaluation in the future, I recommend hiring a real Linux professional, not just someone who has a certificate.
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