Fanatics? The War Was Won!

I started out in 1994 as a Linux advocate, saying to myself, “This is great, but I wish it were easier to install and didn’t screw up my boot sector.” In 1995-1996, I forgot about it so that I could concentrate on applications. In 1997 I went into denial, and in 1998 I tried to remain objective.

In 1999, I’m taking a “who cares” attitude. I’m not denying Linux per se; I’m simply refusing to get caught up in an OS holy war.

It’s not 1999 yet, though, so I still have a little time left for some more denial–not just about Linux, but also about Windows 2000 and NetWare.

Linux fanatics out there, you’re going to have to get over this: In some aspects, Windows NT is a better operating system. The biggest NT advantage is that it has a development model and a ton of rich consumer-friendly applications.

lnWere that the only thing, Linux would be home free, since the mass acceptance of the operating system will spur on more applications. But Linux also has problems with its scheduler. I’ve written before that the Windows NT scheduler is not up to par to what is available on some Unix platforms (see PC Week, June 1, Page 71). However, NT’s scheduler makes Linux’s look like dog meat.

Another Linux problem is with I/O. An engineer I know says that Linux is rife with Ring 3 scaling problems. But he added that the operating system will “get there” soon enough.

The trouble with NT starts with its registry, which most engineers complain is a horrible mess. The only people who like the NT Registry are those who sell packages to “fix” it.

As bad as it is, the registry is the least of Microsoft’s worries. We have today a big need for 24-by-7 uptime, and NT just doesn’t cut it. NT doesn’t allow IT managers to gracefully kill rogue programs. It makes organizations reboot systems too often, even when minor, noncritical application-level changes are made. Sure, Microsoft and others have patches, kludges and fixes that let NT function in this environment. But corporations want guaranteed uptime; that’s why Linux is perfect here.

NetWare 5.0 should have been poised to reap profits from a delay in Windows 2000 and the newness of Linux. Unfortunately, there are a ton of problems with NDS (Novell Directory Services), including incompatibilities between NDS with NetWare 5.0 and NDS with NetWare 4.0 implementations.

There are also unconfirmed reports that NetWare 5.0 is slower than NetWare 4.0 in some instances. The performance problem stems from NetWare’s unithreaded TCP/IP stack. But really, these performance differences are so slight that it shouldn’t really make a big difference.

All this hand wringing is meaningless in a way. We in the press and in the community constantly operate in an “exclusive OR” world. That is, if something new comes along, we have to assume it will displace something else. But the buying practices of corporations rarely function in this way. Corporations buy to solve problems.

That’s why I see businesses forcing vendors to work together. The consumers will push Microsoft to accept Linux; they’ll push for development of stronger NT development (for example, Winsock) APIs on the Linux kernel. They’ll push Microsoft to accept NDS because consumers don’t plan to dump it.

Next year, though, Linux will be pushing other Unix vendors out of the market. The smartest move Novell could make would be to completely dump the NetWare code base and move all of the NetWare services to Linux. Caldera supports NetWare for Linux now.

Watch out for Caldera, by the way. In 1999, it’s going to make some Linux announcements that will knock your socks off.