Fusion Forum fight: NT vs Linux

If this week's Fusion Face-off taught us anything, it's that network managers are a passionate lot, especially when it comes to defending their network operating system (NOS) of choice.

Network World's Fusion Web site asked readers to comment on whether Windows NT or Linux is the best NOS for the enterprise. To start the ball rolling, Bob Young, CEO of Linux vendor Red Hat, and Ed Muth, group product manager for Microsoft's Enterprise Marketing Group, explained why their respective NOSes were the best.

The result was a record number of reader responses, not all of them kind. NT got knocked because it can't be remotely administered, or as one clever reader put it, "The No. 1 remote administration tool for an NT server is a car."

The biggest issue with Linux is that there isn't a reliable support network, other than the user community.

Some readers actually see that as a blessing: "Thanks to peer-review, I can sleep at night." Others see it as Linux's downside: "Do you know why Linux (and Unix variants in general) is so stable? Because it doesn't do anything new! There's no will for improvement, only fewer bugs. No motivation to improve usability and lower the learning curve," says Fusion user Joshua Schaeffer.

The bulk of the responses were pro-Linux, but sometimes it's hard to tell if they're in favour of Linux as much as they're against NT, and more specifically, against Microsoft. For IT professionals, Microsoft bashing has become an art form, and people often go to great lengths to vilify the Redmond giant. Along with that comes an acceptance of anything seen as anti-Microsoft, and at this moment, Linux is being embraced as the NOS that may kill NT.

One reader summed it up: "I am in concordance with most of the views expressed here. There's simply no real reason to run Windows NT in the enterprise," says Brian Miller, a manager of network technologies for a multimedia company.

Another reader says Unix programs port easily to Linux, but not to NT: "NT programs, on the other hand, are hopelessly intertwined and tangled in the WinAPI mess and notoriously difficult to port - no doubt by Microsoft design. Lock 'em in -- load 'em up -- move 'em out . . . Microsoft! Hyah!"

And more than one user has given up on NT altogether: "We finally tired of the obnoxious licence restrictions, frequent crashes and abysmal performance of our applications under NT."

But not everyone was against NT: "Lets face it folks, Linux is about 20 years away from providing the ease of use that is common on all Windows operating systems. I will admit that Linux is very customisable and allows you to do many things that Windows operating systems don't. The main problem with Linux is that it is way too difficult to use. . . . For people who use computers to get work done, and not to work on the computer, use Windows."

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