Monday, technology research firm Yankee Group released a report claiming that "Windows 2003 Server is a more reliable server operating system than Linux." Fair enough, I'm open minded enough to give the assessment a fair shake. I administrate both Windows and Linux servers and was interested to see this report. However, reading into the article a bit more makes me question the validity of their assessment.
The Yankee Group states that Windows 2003 Server led Red Hat Enterprise Linux with nearly 20% more annual up time.
I had to do a double take when I saw that. 20% more!? Assume for a moment that you have two servers, one running Windows Server 2003 and one running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. Assume that your Windows box ran non-stop, without rebooting (which means you probably are not loading any Microsoft security updates) for 365 days. For your Linux box to have 20% more downtime it'd have to only be up for 292 days. If that is the case, your machine is no longer a server and is nothing more than a space heater.
Looking into the Yankee Group, and the analyst who contributed to this article, Laura DiDio, it can quickly be decided that they can hardly be seen as an objective source for technology analysis. Yankee has regularly been tasked and paid by Microsoft to provide "objective" reviews for its Get the Facts campaign (see all 184 results from Microsoft's website). The Facts campaign is the same campaign that said one company switched from Linux because they had been effected by the Blaster worm (a Windows worm) on their Linux systems which caused them massive down time and as a result made the switch to Windows Server systems. (read that one for yourself)
View: Full EditorialI'm not jumping to conclusions to say that Microsoft paid the Yankee Group to put out this analysis as they have done in the past. Yankee did make a point of stressing that the survey was not sponsored or supported by any server OS maker. That aside, a research group that has continually been used to produce bias results cannot really be trusted to bring objective opinion to the table, especially when they make claims of being 20% better.
From my experience, Windows servers require far more restarts and downtime than any Linux system. Typically a Linux server only needs a full restart upon upgrade of the kernel, which happens very rarely. Windows Servers will at the least need to be restarted once a month on "patch Tuesday." Are there Windows systems that outperform Linux systems, yes, absolutely. A properly configured Windows server network with redundancy and backup systems will probably perform at the same level (or at least within a few tenths of a percentage point) of efficiency as a similarly configured Linux counter part. If your organization, regardless of if you run Windows or Linux, has 73 days of downtime per year, you need to hire new IT people now!
The Windows Server system is good stuff. My real life company relies on Windows and I use Linux servers for other tasks (such as Neowin) and can say with experience that Microsoft has made great strides in their server platform over the years. However, I refuse to believe the statement that Windows Server provides what the Yankee Group says, and has said in the past.