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Windows vs. Linux Study Author Replies 501 501

Last week you submitted questions for Dr. Herb Thompson, author of the latest Microsoft-sponsored Windows vs. Linux study. Here are his answers. Please feel free to ask follow-up questions. Dr. Thompson says he'll respond to as many as he can. He's registered a new Slashdot username, FFE4, specifically to participate in this discussion. All others claiming to be him are imposters. So read, post, ask, and enjoy.
1- A better way of putting it:
by einhverfr

It seems that your study attempted to simulate the growth of an internet startup firm on Windows or Linux. One thing I did not see in the study was a good description of assumptions you made. What assumptions were made in both the design of the requirements and the analysis of the data? What limitations can we place on the conclusions as a result of these assumptions?

Dr. Thompson

This is a really important question. I think there are two sections of the study: the assessment methodology and then the experiment we undertook to illustrate how to apply that methodology. I'll answer the assumption question for both parts:

Methodology - For the methodology, we wanted to provide a tool that organizations could use and apply their own assumptions. Maintaining a system is all about context; some environments favor Linux, others Windows. The question is, how do you know what's likely to be the most reliable (which includes manageable, secure and supportable) solution for your environment? We proposed a methodology a recipe - that looks at a solution in its entirety instead of just individual components. Policies like configuration control vary from organization to organization and to get something that's truly meaningful in your environment, the methodology needs to be carried out in your context. Enterprise customers can and should do this when they are about to trust their critical business processes to a platform. That said, the basic assumptions of the methodology are that patches are applied at 1 month intervals and that business needs evolve over time. How those business needs evolve depends on the scenario you're looking at (in our experiment we looked at ecommerce for example). The methodology doesn't cover steady state reliability, meaning the uptime of a system that is completely static. While this is important, our conversations with CIOs, CTOs, CSOs and IT folks lead us to believe that this was a smaller contributor to pain in a dynamic environment. In an appliance for example, though, steady state reliability is king, and I think an important limitation of this methodology is that we don't capture that well, and I think it's amazingly difficult quality to measure in a time-lapse way.

The purpose of the experiment was to illustrate how to apply the methodology and to begin to get some insights into some of the key model differences between two platforms. For the experiment we picked the ecommerce scenario, for no other reason than there has been a clear shift in how ecommerce sites have serviced their customers in recent years moving from static sites to personalized content. Some specific assumptions were:

* The transition from a basic purchasing site to a personalized portal based on order/browsing history takes place over a one year period.

* The period we looked at was July 1st, 2004 to June 30th, 2005 (the most recent full year at the time of the study).

* A configuration control policy exists that mandates OS version but not much else meaning administrators had fairly free rein to meet business requirements.

* All patches marked as critical or important supplied by the vendor are applied.

* We assume the system to be functioning if the original ecommerce application is running and meets some basic acceptance tests (same for both platforms see Appendix 1 of the report) and the new installed components are also running.

* To add new capabilities, we use leading 3rd party components as opposed to building custom code in-house.

* The business migrates operating system versions at the end of the one year period to the latest versions of the platform.

* The administrators that participated in the experiment reflect the average Linux (specifically SuSE) and Windows administrators in skill, capability and knowledge. While this was strived for, it's important to recognize the small sample size in drawing any conclusions from the data.

As far as limitations, the experiment looks at one specific case with a total of six administrators. I'd love to have done it with a hundred admins on each side on a wide range of business requirement scenarios and my hope is that others will do that and publish their results. Our experiment, however, shows that for this particular, clearly documented scenario, experienced Linux Admins had conflicts between meeting business needs and a recommended best practice like not introducing out-of-distribution components. If one is aware of potential conflicts and challenges upfront, I think you can put controls in place to make reasonable tradeoffs. In the linux case, a precise and specific configuration control policy may have prohibited the problematic upgrade of one of the components that the 3rd party solutions required. This would have likely reduced the number of failures but would have put some hefty constraints on 3rd party solutions. To understand the implications for your environment you really need to run through the methodology with the assumptions and restrictions of your organization and I hope that this study either prompts or provokes people to do that.


2 - Meta-credibility?
by Tackhead

Where I come from (non-management, grunt-level techie), appearing in any of these analysts' journals *costs* an author more credibility than it gains him or her. For example, if $RAG says that $CORP has the best customer support, I immediately assume that $CORP has such horrid customer support that they had to pay someone to make up some research that proves otherwise.

To be sarcastic, I'd ask "who the heck actually takes these studies seriously?", but obviously *somebody* does. Who are these people, and why do these people take these industry analyst firms/journals/reports seriously? Are they right or wrong to do so? This isn't an attack (or endorsement :) of your research -- I'm talking about the credibility gap in industry research, and my observation that it's an industry-wide problem.

The meta-credibility question is this: Given the amount of shoddy pay-for-play research out there, does being published in an analyst journal tend to cost (a researcher, his consulting company, his financial backers) more credibility than it can gains him/her/them? If not, why not -- and more importantly, if so, is there any way to reverse the trend?

Dr. Thompson

This is a really interesting question because it cuts to the heart of what a real research study should provide to the reader. It should provide a baseline and I think research should always be questioned, scrutinized and debated because one can always find reasons for bias. Particularly, if a subject of the study (vendor for example) is behind its funding, whether directly (as in this study) or indirectly (meaning that they are big clients) I think it's critical that the study not provide just a baked cake for readers but the recipe as well. The recipe has to be inherently fair and simple, meaning that it has to map directly to a the quality or pain one is trying to measure without taking into account how the subjects try and provide that service or mitigate that pain. I think slanted opinion pieces, with no backup for those opinions, seriously hurts credibility, at least in my book. If you're presenting facts though and encouraging others to question them then I think that actually helps credibility, even if the search for those facts was paid for.

I agree though that one is tempted to dismiss research a priori though because of funding or some vendor tie. I think a good way to reverse the trend is to open the process up to public scrutiny; that's probably the main reason I came on Slashdot. To use this specific study as an example, some folks disagreed with several points in the experiment from counting patches, to reasons for upgrading key components, to the ecommerce scenario we used. For me, the study's key value is the methodology. Could different applications/scenarios have been chosen: absolutely!

The value I think that this study gives to the practitioner is arming them with a tool to help measure in their own environment. By applying the methodology, the results should take into account things like administrators skillsets, support policies, configuration control policies and the tradeoffs between customizability, maintainability, visibility, security and usability. It's only by looking at this stuff in context can one make a sound judgment; and a true research paper, especially one where funding is in question, needs to fully disclose the method and the funding source. In our case, the methodology has been vetted by industry analysts, IT organizations and several academics. That doesn't mean much, though, if you don't find the methodology meaningful for the questions you want answered. One reason I've come on Slashdot is to get the thoughts, opinions and assessments of the methodology itself from administrators in the trenches. I'm really pleased with the great questions and comments amidst the inevitable flames and I'm looking forward to this being posted so that others can weigh-in with their feedback and I can jump into the threads to get some discussion going.

If the research helps give real insight, and the methodology makes sense, I think there's real value no matter who paid the bill. At the end of the day, you need to decide whether or not you can extract any value from the information presented to you. In the case of this study, my hope is that it will leave you thinking hmmm.... maybe we should actually run through a process like this and check out how this works for ourselves. My more ambitious hope is that you'll implement it and tell me what challenges you faces on Windows, Linux, OSX, BSD, whatever platform you choose to compare. It may not even venture into the perennial Windows versus Linux battle; maybe you're a linux shop trying to decide between multiple distributions for example. Either way, if it's got people thinking about the topic and asking questions, well, that's all any researcher can really hope for.


3 - Weak setup

If I understand the study correctly, the windows side had to do nothing but set up a server to do a few different tasks over time and run windows update. The linux side had to have multiple incompatible versions of their database server running simultaneously on a single system and had to run unsupported versions of software to do it.

Why wasn't the windows side required to run multiple versions of IIS or SQL server simultaneously? In real life if you need to run multiple database versions you use virtualization or multiple systems, especially if one requires untested software. You don't run some hokie unstable branch on the same system as everything else. Why was a linux solution picked that required this level of work? My other related question is, did any of the unix administrators question why there were being asked to do such a thing? For example, did they come back and say they need a license for vmware? If they did not they do not seem like very competent administrators in my opinion.

Dr. Thompson

The Windows Admins and Linux admins were given the exact same set of business requirements which doesn't necessarily translate into the same tasks as they went about fulfilling them. The 3rd party components installed were chosen solely based on their market leadership position and any upgrades of OS were unknown at the time of selection. That said, on the Windows side, it turned out that no upgrades of IIS were needed (except for patches) and SQL Server was upgraded to SP4 as part of patch application. On the Linux side, at a high-level there were two main classes of upgrades: MySQL and GLIBC and they were both prompted by the installed components. After the experiment, the administrators were asked on both sides if this kind of evolution of systems met with their real-world experience. They said yes, with the caveat of if they were asked to install a component that required an upgrade of GLIBC that they would likely upgrade the operating system as long as their configuration control policy allowed it.

You make a great point about installing components on some sort of staging system (which is almost always done) as opposed to live running systems. That still means that the problems that the administrators had equal real IT pain. If something weird had to be done to get the system running but it does run and it's then put into production it's like a fuse that gets set on a bomb. A careful configuration control policy would almost certainly help and thats why I think it's so important to conduct this kind of experiment in your own environment with your own policies.

As far as selection of the Linux administrators go, they all had at least 5 years of enterprise administration experience, and two years of experience on SuSE specifically. With three people there's certainly likely to be a lot of variability and to get some conclusive results, I'd love to get a huge group of administrators across the spectrum in terms of experience. I'd also love to do it across multiple scenarios, beyond the ecommerce study. For this experiment, basically the bottom line is that we Illustrate one clearly documented scenario with six highly qualified admins that we selected based on experience. We cant ensure equal competency levels, but there was nothing in our screening that would lead us to believe there were gaps in knowledge on either side. When it comes down to it though, the really meaningful results are the ones you get when you perform the evaluation in your environment. Hopefully this study provides a starting point for asking the right questions when you do that.


4- Who determined the metrics
by Infonaut

Did Microsoft come to you with a specific set of metrics, or did you work with them to develop the metrics, or did you determine them completely on your own?

Kudos to you for braving the inevitable flames to answer people's questions here on Slashdot.

Dr. Thompson

Great question! The metrics and the methodology were developed completely on our own and independent of Microsoft. They were created with the help and feedback of enterprise CIOs as well as industry analysts. I think that this relates to a couple of other questions on Slashdot with the gist of if Microsoft is funding the study aren't you incentivized for them to come out ahead. Besides the standard we would never do that and that would put our credibility at risk which is our primary commodity which are both very true, let me explain a little more about how our research engagements work.

Company X (in this case Microsoft) comes to us and says can you help us measure quality Y (in this case Reliability) to get some insight into how product Z stacks up. We say, sure, BUT we have complete creation and control of the methodology, it will be reviewed and vetted by the community (end users and independent analysts) and must strictly follow scientific principles. The response will either be: great, we want to know whats really going on or um, heres some things to focus on and I think you should set it up this way. In the first case we proceed, in the second case we inform that company that we don't do that kind of research. We are also not in the opinion business, so we present a methodology to follow and illustrate how that methodology is applied with the hope that people will take the methodology and apply it in their own environment.

All of our studies are written as if they will be released publicly BUT it is up to the sponsor if the study is publicly released. The vendor knows that they're taking a risk. They pay for the research either way but only have control over whether it is published, not over content. So if their intent is to use it as an outward facing piece, they may end up with something they don't like. Either way, I think it's of high value to them. If there are aspects of the results that favor the sponsor's product, in my experience, it goes to the marketing department and gets released publicly; if it favors the competitors product it goes off to the engineering folks as a tool to understand their product, their competitor's product, and the problem more clearly. Either way, we maintain complete editorial control over the study and there is no financial incentive for us if it becomes a public study or is used as an internal market analysis piece. The methodology has to be as objective as possible to be of any real value in either case.


5 - ATMs vs. Voting Machines
by digitaldc

How is it that Diebold can make ATM machines that will account for every last penny in a banking system, but they can't make secure electronic voting machines?

Also, does the flame-resistant suit come with its own matching tinfoil hat? (don't answer that one)

Dr. Thompson

This is a question that has passed through my mind more than once. The voting world is very interesting. I don't have experience with the inner workings of Diebolds ATM machines but I can say that the versions of their tabulation software that Ive seen have some major security challenges (see this Washington post documentary for some of the gory details). I'd say I'm concerned about the e-voting systems Ive seen but that would be a serious understatement.

I question whether the economic incentive is there for them to make their voting systems more secure. Take an ATM for example. Imagine the ATM has a flaw and if you do something to it, you can make it give you more money than is actually deducted from your account. Anything involving money gets audited and sometimes audited multiple times and chances are good that the bank is going to figure out that they're loosing money. On the flip side, if there was a flaw in the ATM in the banks favor, someone balancing their checkbook is going to notice a discrepancy. The point is that there's always traceability and there's always someone keeping score. If you think about voting tabulators though we've got this mysterious box that vote data gets fed into and then, in many states, only a fraction of these votes are audited. That means we don't really know what the bank balance is other than what the machine tells us it is. If the system is highly vulnerable and its vulnerability is known by the manufacturer *but* it's going to be expensive to fix it and shore up defenses, there seems to be no huge incentive to fix the problems. I think the only way to get some decent software that counts votes that people can have confidence in is to allow security experts to actually test the systems, highlight potential vulnerabilities, and put some proper checks and balances in place. That would give the general public some visibility into a critical infrastructure system that we usually aren't in the habit of questioning and will hold voting manufacturers directly accountable to voters.

As for the tin foil hat to go with the flame resistant suit; it hasn't been shipped to me yet - apparently the manufacturing company is still filling backorders from SCO :).


6 - Why are the requirements different?
by altoz

Looking at your research report's appendices, it seems that the requirements for Windows Administrators were somewhat different than the Linux Administrators. For instance, you ask for 4-5 years sys admin experience minimum for Windows, whereas it's 3-4 years sys admin experience minimum for Linux.

Why wasn't it equal for both? And doesn't this sort of slight Windows favoring undermine your credibility?

Dr. Thompson

Short answer: Typo. Long answer: We originally were looking for 4 years of general administration experience for both Linux and Windows which is what is reflected in the desired responses to the General Background questionnaire for Linux. We then raised it to 5 years for both Linux and Windows which is reflected in the General Background of the Windows questionnaire. The difference in the two was just a failure to update the response criteria on that shared section of one of the questionnaires. On page 5 though we've got the actual administrator experience laid out:

Each SuSE Linux administrator had at least 5 years experience administering Linux in an enterprise setting. We also required 2 years minimum experience administering SuSE Linux distributions and at least 1 year administering SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and half a year administering SLES 9 (released in late 2004). Windows administrators all had at least 5 years experience administering Windows servers in an enterprise environment. These administrators also had at least 2 years experience administering Windows Server 2000 and at least 1 year administration experience with Windows Server 2003.


7 - Scalability of Results?
by hahiss

You tested six people on two different systems; how is that supposed to yield any substantial insight into the underlying OSes themselves?

[At best, your study seems to show that the GNU/Linux distribution you selected was not particularly good at this task. But why does that show that the ``monolithic" style of Windows is better per se than the ``modular" style of GNU/Linux distributions?]

Dr. Thompson

First, let's look at what we did. We followed a methodology for evaluating reliability with three Windows admins and three Linux admins. This is small sample set and it looked at one scenario: ecommerce. Is this enough to make sweeping claims about the reliability of Linux/Windows? No way. I do however think the results raise some interesting questions about the modularity vs. integration tradeoffs that come with operating systems. I don't think that either the Windows or Linux models are better in a general sense but they *are* different; the question is which is likely to cause less pain and provide more value for your particular business need in your specific environment. Hopefully these are the questions that people will ask after reading this study, and with any luck it will prompt others to carry out their own analysis within their own IT environment, building on what we started here. I think the methodology in this paper has provided a good starting point to help people answer those questions in context.


8 - Convenience vs. security
by Sheetrock

Lately, I've felt that Microsoft is emphasizing greater trust in their control over your system as a means of increasing your security. This is suggested by the difficulty of obtaining individual or bulk security patches from their website as opposed to simply loading Internet Explorer and using their Windows Update service, the encouragement in Service Pack 2 of allowing Automatic Update to run in the background, and the introduction of Genuine Advantage requiring the user to authenticate his system before obtaining critical updates such as DirectX.

In addition, Digital Rights Management or other copy protection schemes are becoming increasingly demanding and insidious, whether by uniquely identifying and reporting on user activity, intentionally restricting functionality, and even introducing new security issues (the most recent flap involves copy protection software on Sony CDs that not only hides content from the user but permits viruses to take advantage of this feature.)

I would like to know how you feel about the shift of control over the personal computer from the person to the software manufacturers -- is it right, and do we gain more than we're losing in privacy and security?

Dr. Thompson

This is an interesting problem because manufacturers have to deal with a wide range of users. If there was real visibility and education for users on the security implications of doing A, B or C then we'd be ok. It's scary though when that line gets crossed. Sony's DRM rootkit is a good example. But if you think about it, we are essentially passively accepting things like this all the time. Every time we install a new piece of software,especially something that reads untrusted data like a browser plugin,we tacitly accept that this software is likely to contain security flaws and can be an entryway into your system; NOW are you sure you want to install it? The visceral immediate reaction is no but then you balance tradeoffs of the features you get versus potential risks. Increasingly, were not even given that choice, and components that are intended to help us (or help the vendor) are installed with out our knowledge. This also brings up the question of visibility; how do we know what security state were really in with a system? Again, there are tradeoffs, some of this installed software may actually increase usability or maintainability but it's abstracting away what's happening on the metal. So far, it seems as though the market has tended towards the usability, maintainability, integration that favors bundling on both the Linux and Windows sides. It's kind of a disturbing trend though.

As another example, think about how much trustaverage programmers put into their compiler these days. Whenever I teach classes on computer security and then go off into x86 op codes or even assembly, it seems to be a totally foreign concept and skillset. We've created a culture of building applications rapidly in super high-level languages which does get the job done, but at the same time seems to have sacrificed knowledge of (or even the desire to know) what's happening on the metal. This places a heavy burden on platform developers, compiler writers and even IDE manufacturers because we are shifting the cloud of security responsibility over to them in big way. Under the right conditions it can be good because the average programmer knows little about security, but we need to make sure that the components we depend on and trust are written with security in mind, analyzed by folks that have a clue, and are tested and verified with security in mind. This means asking vendors the tough questions about their development processes and making sure they've got pretty good answers. Here's what I think is a good start. If that fails, theres always BSD. :).


9 - Apache versus IIS
by 00_NOP

Simple one: of course I accept that Windows and Linux are a priori equally vulnerable - C programmers make mistakes. The question is which model is most likely to deliver a fix fastest. Given that the one area where Linux is probably in the lead over Microsoft's software is in the realm of the webserver - why are my server logs filled with artifacts of hacked IIS boxes but apache seems to remain pretty safe?

Dr. Thompson

You bring up a couple of interesting points. The first is patch delivery. It's true that on Linux if there's a high profile vulnerability you're likely to be able to find a patch out on the net from somebody in a few hours. Sometimes the fix is simple, a one-liner, and other times it may be more complex. Either way, there could be unintended side effects of the patch which is why there's usually a significant lag between these first responder patches and a blessed patch released from the distribution vendor. Most enterprises I know wait for the distribution patch as a matter of policy, and even then, they go through a fairly rigorous testing and compatibility verification process before the patch gets deployed widely. In the Windows world, one doesn't get the alpha or beta patches, just the blessed finished product. So the question is which solution is likely to provide a patch that fixes the problem and doesn't create any more problems the fastest. That's a tough one to answer. I think theres something to be learned by looking historically and that in general theres a big discrepancy between perception and reality. Here's a (pdf) link to a study we did earlier this year based on 2004 data that I think provides a good starting point for answering that question.

As far as why you've got so many attempts on your Windows/IIS box, I think there are two distinct issues: vulnerability and threat profile. In the past, I would argue that the path of least resistance was through Windows because desktop systems were often left unprotected by the home computer user. Bang-for-the-packet favored creating tools that exploited these problems and some of the attacks actually worked on poorly configured servers as well. Then there's the targeted vs. broad attacks. Theres no question that the high-profile worms and viruses in the last several years have favored Windows as a target. The issue gets even more complicated when you look at targeted attacks. These targeted attacks are much harder to measure, even anecdotally, because either an organization gets compromised and doesn't disclose it (unless they're compelled to by law) or the attack goes undetected because it doesn't leave any of the standard footprints, in which case no pain is felt immediately. That may help to explain it but the truth is that there's a lot of conflicting data out there. I remember reading this on Slashdot last year which claims Apache was more attacked than IIS but I've also read reports to the contrary. The reality is that any target of value is going to get attacked frequently. If there is an indiscriminant mass attack like a worm or virus, that's pretty bad and can be really painful. What's scarier though is the attack that just targets you.


10 - Do you agree with Windows Local Workflow
by MosesJones

Microsoft and Linux distros have had a policy for some time of including more and more functionality in the base operating system, the latest example is the inclusion of "Local Workflow" in Windows Vista.

As a security expert do you think that bundling more and more increases or decreases the risks, and should both Windows and Linux distros be doing more to create reduced platforms that just act as good operating systems?

Dr. Thompson

Three years ago I bought my mother a combination TV, VCR and DVD player. It was great; she didn't have to worry about cables or the notorious multi-remote control problem. She didn't even really need the VCR because she hardly ever watches Video tapes, but I thought, why not. It worked great for two years, mom watched her DVDs, and on a blue moon a video tape from a family vacation would find its way into the VCR. All was well at the Thompson household. This past year, tragedy struck. The VCR devoured a videotape, completely entangling it in the machine. This not only knocked out the VCR but the television too (it thought it was constantly at the end of a tape and needing to rewind it). So here's the issue: mom probably only needed a TV and a separate DVD player. I probably could have gotten better quality components individually too, and with some ebay-savvy shopping, the group may have been cheaper. For my mom though, the integration and ease of operation of the three were key assets. The flipside of that is that the whole is only as strong as the weakest of its constituent parts, and by the manufacturer throwing some questionable VCR components into the mix, it caused the whole thing to fail. The meta-question: did I make the right choice, going for the kitchen-sink approach versus individual components? I think for mom I made the right call. For me, my willingness to program a universal remote and my love of tweaking the system would have lead me down a different route.

In operating systems, it depends what you're looking for and what the risk vs. reward equation is for you, and I would argue that the answer varies from user to user. The ideal would be something that gave you integration, ease of use, visibility, manageability and the ability to truly customize and minimize functionality and maintenance requirements. No operating system I've ever seen strikes that balance optimally and for every user. As far as bundling functionality with the distribution, I think it's a question of market demand. There's no question though that from a simple mathematical perspective, the less code processing untrusted data the better. That means if I need a system to perform one specific function, and that function was constant over time, then from a security perspective I only want the stuff on that box that does what I need to serve that goal. For example, I don't ever want X Windows on my linux file server. I just want the minimal code base there because as long as the code itself is reliable, I'll only have to mess with the box to apply patches (and much fewer patches if I strip the system down). That's true of my home fileserver. If I have an army of systems to manage though, my decision is going to come down to which platform is reliable and extends me the most tools to manage it efficiently and effectively. That's a question that can only be answered in context. I can tell you what I run at home though. File server: Red Hat EL 4 (no X windows). Laptop: Windows XP SP2. Desktop: Windows Server 2003 with virtual machines of everything under the sun from Win 9x to SuSE, Red Hat and Debian.
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Windows vs. Linux Study Author Replies

Comments Filter:
  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyinwhitey (928430) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:35PM (#14129739)
    When this study was originally posted, many of you slashbots rushed to dismiss it solely on the basis of funding.

    When I brought it to your attention that doing so is fallacious, I was modded down into oblivion.

    Inevitably the same people will post again, with the same fallacious arguments, claiming that this guy is a shill for MS.

    I'll be interested to hear the excuses that are made this time, and I can guarantee that several people will attack this man personally for no reason other than the results of his study.

    So how about, instead of relying on old prejudices, we instad attempt to actually examine the research and gauge it on it's own merits.

  • Meta-credibility? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spazmonkey (920425) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:38PM (#14129767)
    Not to sound like a troll, but meta-credibility does also work the opposite way;

            anti-$ rag says that grassroots anti-$ os/app/whatever is "the best" and you will have an immediate knee-jerk reaction from the community defending it to the death and proudly installing it on thier boxes just to say they did, even if it takes several dozen man-hours to get it to do anything even marginally useful.

            Dogma is probably even more dangerous and counterproductive than putting blind trust in some $corps marketing stooges, as hard as that is to comprehend.

            Sorry, just watched six guys on laptops code and tweak for two hours failing to get the newest, hippest OS du jour to even recognize basic hardware.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nharmon (97591) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:44PM (#14129829) Homepage
    Just because he says he's not a shill does not mean he is not.

    I wonder if we would get the same results if we repeated the experiment, and not have it funded by Microsoft.
  • by everphilski (877346) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:51PM (#14129901) Journal
    He told you his process. He told you how Microsoft approached his company. He gave you his methodology. Show us where he f*ed up.

    I'm waiting... come on... all talk now? yeah...

  • by lightyear4 (852813) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:54PM (#14129935) Homepage

    Maintaining a system is all about context; some environments favor Linux, others Windows.

    I've built many many systems for many people; servers, desktops, multimedia backends, you name it. I personally use linux/unix, but the OS installed upon each of the machines I build is by no means limited by my personal preference. Dr. Thompson makes a wonderful point here. In computing as in life, different situations merit different approaches.

    I really wish all of the microsoft-, bsd-, and linux-zealots would realize this. To each, his own.

  • by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:54PM (#14129936)
    From the responses it sounds like he did an honest attempt at this study. I think the conclusion however should be that stupid admins cost a lot, so taking away things they could mess up is the key to lowering costs. If it turned out that the windows admins had to actually do anything, I bet the results would have been just as bad or worse for Windows.
  • microsoft patches (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonastullus (530101) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:56PM (#14129960) Homepage
    In the Windows world, one doesn't get the alpha or beta patches, just the blessed finished product

    yeah, right!
    i won't even mention IE's security holes for the last 8 or so years (active x, ...) or outlook's bad record of keeping spam from executing malicious code (mostly through the IE engine).

    but boldly stating how much due diligence is exacted upon the microsoft patches before final release is ridiculous in face of them frequently backfiring and leaving old or new vulnerabilities in their wake: hp?story=20020924094345962 [] sjump_1.html [],1895,1753511, p [] aised-microsoft-patches []

  • Re:MySQL (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IdleTime (561841) on Monday November 28, 2005 @12:57PM (#14129972) Journal
    Most likely because the new MySQL version used a glibc function not existing in the previous version, hence rebuilding with the old glibc would error out.

    I know that the database I work with on a daily basis have a minimum requirement for glibc versions and when we release a new version, that requirement normally have bumped the release of the mninimum required glibc version, hence a glibc upgrade may be necessary.
  • by Shaman (1148) <shaman.kos@net> on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:00PM (#14129996) Homepage
    ...these were highly experienced Linux admins.

    - which chose an ancient linux distribution
    - which tried to use bleeding-edge software on an old OS software platform
    - which didn't know that glibc updates can break things
    - which apparently didn't upgrade the system first if that's what they had in mind
    - which took more than an afternoon to set up a linux system
    - which were stymied by basic systems administration
    - which appeared to be unaware of the tools available such as webmin

    Wow. That's why I hire kids fresh out of highschool. They're so much more advanced than "experienced professionals" available to this guy.
  • by phasm42 (588479) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:02PM (#14130022)
    Maybe that was one of the conclusions of the study -- the Windows admins didn't have to do as much. This is a real-world concern.
  • by flyinwhitey (928430) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:08PM (#14130085)
    "The fact that Microsoft funded the "study" means that you MUST look at the assumptions and process."

    No it doesn't. Examining the study in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as every other study will reveal its flaws. Nothing else is necessary.

    The fact that you think the funder matters means you MUST look up "circumstantial ad hominem", because you used one and don't even know it.

    I have no skin in this, but I've always wondered why people like you try so hard to stay ignorant. You're wrong about this, and you're using a common fallacy to suport your opinion.

    Instead of insisting you are right, just learn something. It's easier than defending an erroneous position.

  • by TheConfusedOne (442158) <> on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:13PM (#14130120) Journal
    From the study:
    Beginning at Milestone 1 however, some upgraded components were out of support from SLES 8 and updates for those components had to be obtained from the package distribution sites. As of Milestone 1, MySQL patches were obtained from the MySQL distribution site and as of milestone 2, glibc and directly related packages were maintained through manually applying SLES 9 patches.

    If we look at the history of SuSE then we see Novell's big involvement was in the 9.0 world. Right from the get-go we can see that forcing the administrators to remain on SLES 8 is creating problems that would be considered a show stopper in a regular environment. Especially if you're talking about buying components with their required environments. The fact that you even have the option of applying SLES 9.0 patches to an 8.0 environment is something that you can't do in the Windows world.

    What were the "third-party components" installed on the systems? The following dodge "The specific 3rd party vendors are not disclosed
    because the focus of the study is the methodology and not a specific component." is complete bull if you're crowing about the repeatability of your experiment. How can the experiment be repeated if we don't know the items? (It would be interesting to know if those components didn't support SLES 8 at the time of their installation.)

    Also, why this requirement for the components: "Support on both Windows and Linux" when your environments are obviously not equivalent (IIS/ASP versus LAMP instead of J2EE)?

  • by benjamindees (441808) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:15PM (#14130135) Homepage
    [At best, your study seems to show that the GNU/Linux distribution you selected was not particularly good at this task. But why does that show that the ``monolithic" style of Windows is better per se than the ``modular" style of GNU/Linux distributions?]

    That pretty much sums up the entire study. This isn't really a test of Windows versus Linux, but a test of "modular" operating systems versus "monolithic" operating systems. And, unfortunately, the study didn't even do a good job of testing that.

    Linux happens to include several distributions, some more "monolithic" than "modular". Unsuprisingly, the "monolithic" versions are usually those used by "enterprises", such as RedHat and SuSE. The "modular" operating systems, such as Debian, are almost universally ignored by businesses, though you will find IT personnel swear by them. There are Linux distributions that adhere to the Unix philosophy, and there are those that try to emulate Windows and Apple in the name of "ease of use". Hell, even some of SCO's products are more "modular" than commercial Linux distributions.

    By requiring "enterprise" sysadmins and a Linux distro that is geared towards "enterprises", the study preselected a Linux competitor with which Windows can easily compete: admins (probably used to using Windows) using Linux distros that attempt to emulate Microsoft's "monolithic" operating system. By virtue of the fact that Microsoft has been building "monolithic" operating systems for at least a decade longer than any of these Linux companies even existed, that the vast majority of Linux components are designed to be used instead in a "modular" fashion, and that most "enterprises" wouldn't know proper system administration from their own asses, anyone can see that this test is designed to fail.

    I've spent the last one and a half years doing this exact same study. Guess what I found? You can't treat "monolithic" operating systems, RedHat, Fedora, SuSE, Windows, as though they were "modular". Though doing so is easier with Linux, it's not recommended, and distro makers such as RedHat explicitly warn against doing so. Any IT guy learns this lesson about six months into his career. You either find a truly "modular" OS, such as Debian, or a good Unix, or you very carefully buy products made only by Microsoft or by companies joined at the hip with Microsoft. That is, if you choose modularity, you choose Unix. If you choose out-of-the-box integration, you choose Apple or try to navigate the Microsoft "ecosystem", and you pay monopoly rents for doing so. The people who choose RedHat and SuSE, and expect it to be Windows at this stage, are kidding themselves.

    The real headline should be: "Linux admins tasked with using Linux in the same retarded-ass way as Windows, fail." Which should be no suprise.

    But the important thing to take out of this is that it is neither technical necessity nor user requirements that make operating systems less "modular", and thus less flexible, less powerful, and ultimately less valuable. It is the commercial requirements of the operating system manufacturers themselves. It is the fact that the OS is commercial that makes it difficult to upgrade, impossible to integrate, and expensive to maintain. The evolution of commercial Linux distributions towards the "monolithic" model of Microsoft, and the concomitant decline in their quality, has proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt. At most, this study only serves to highlight what any competent Linux admin already knew.
  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:17PM (#14130163)

    Dr. Herb Thompson talks a good story but it isn't supported by my first hand experiences - Why is that?

    Maybe your first hand experience wasn't in a reasonably controlled environment. Maybe your bias will only allow you to see things one way.

    Sorry Herb but your study is nothing more than a carefully crafted FUD attack on a superior product.

    "Linux is better because I think so" is hardly a refutation. Why don't you point out the flaws in the study?

  • by arevos (659374) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:21PM (#14130199) Homepage
    The problems the study reported with Linux appear to all due to an incompatable unnamed 3rd party software package. Surely then, all this study can conclude is that the 3rd party software used was incompatable with SLES? And if not, why not?
  • Followup question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cavemanf16 (303184) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:28PM (#14130263) Homepage Journal
    From one of the answers to a question:

    "All of our studies are written as if they will be released publicly BUT it is up to the sponsor if the study is publicly released. The vendor knows that they're taking a risk. They pay for the research either way but only have control over whether it is published, not over content. So if their intent is to use it as an outward facing piece, they may end up with something they don't like. Either way, I think it's of high value to them. If there are aspects of the results that favor the sponsor's product, in my experience, it goes to the marketing department and gets released publicly; if it favors the competitors product it goes off to the engineering folks as a tool to understand their product, their competitor's product, and the problem more clearly. Either way, we maintain complete editorial control over the study and there is no financial incentive for us if it becomes a public study or is used as an internal market analysis piece. The methodology has to be as objective as possible to be of any real value in either case."

    But isn't this part of the problem with vendor-funded studies? (Maybe it's THE problem)

    This WOULD be fine if it were just science for the advance of knowledge, but in the case of studies of *products* somebody somewhere is looking to use the information to make a product purchasing decision, or to promote a new product. In other words, someone is looking to either save money or make money using the results of the study. But those two goals conflict. For the purchaser, they would like to know both the pros and the cons of all studies involving that product. For the seller, they want to know both the pros and cons of their product, but only want their consumers to know the pros, and minimize the cons as much as possible. Both of these positions make complete sense... except for the group conducting the study. You have two different types of customers that you are trying to satisfy with these studies, but only one group is paying you to do the study - the seller. Hence, the results ARE skewed in favor of the organization purchasing the study, because they maintain control over whether the study gets released to the purchasers of that seller's products or not.

    In this case, Microsoft has a win-win proposition, whereas for the rest of us, the purchasers, it's a win-lose proposition. Only if the study is positive for Microsoft will we be given more information necessary to help us save money. But if it's a study that puts Microsoft in a bad light, we lose because we don't get to see such information to make a purchasing decision, and may therefore make an incorrect decision.

    I'm still skeptical that these "industry supported" studies are fully worthwhile to us, the purchasers.

  • by SubDude (49782) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:34PM (#14130326)
    >Maybe your first hand experience wasn't in a reasonably controlled environment.Maybe your bias will only allow you to see things one way.Why don't you point out the flaws in the study?

    The flaws in the study? How can I? I have not heard from the supposed 'experienced Linux Admins'. I don't know what proprietary products were deployed. I have no idea why Suse 8.0 was selected (not my first or second choice, by the way).

    The study was funded and conducted for the sole purpose of finding a favorable result for Microsoft and that is exactly what it did. How can I possibley find fault with it when it did exactly what it was supposed to do.

    I am getting tired of this game, aren't you?

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slavemowgli (585321) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:39PM (#14130376) Homepage
    I think you're wrong. Dismissing a study based solely on who commissioned it (which is different from just funding it) is not fallacious, it's common sense. Think about it for a moment.

    If you can't see why it is, consider this analogy from sports: if an athlete gets doped prior to an important event, they'll get disqualified. That is common sense, too, and arguments like "he would've won even if he hadn't taken anything" or "the substance he took didn't actually do anything" would be laughed at. It's obvious that doping is a no-no, and that when a competition involves doping, there is no level playing field on which to compete anymore, so the only thing that really can be done is to categorically disqualify anyone who uses doping, period.

    The same thing is true here. It might well be that windows is a better server OS than Linux, but the fact that Microsoft commissioned this study makes it worthless *no matter* which conclusion it comes to. And it's not even necessary to look at the study's findings or how it was done to know that, just like it's not necessary to check a doped athlete's time / points / ... to know whether they should be disqualified or not. Sportspeople who use doping are always disqualified, and studies that are commissioned by a certain party to examine that party's product and its competitors are always worthless.

    It really is that easy.
  • by cooldev (204270) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:45PM (#14130433)

    We say, sure, BUT we have complete creation and control of the methodology, it will be reviewed and vetted by the community (end users and independent analysts) and must strictly follow scientific principles... All of our studies are written as if they will be released publicly BUT it is up to the sponsor if the study is publicly released.

    While I understand the reasoning, I don't think this should be represented as following scientific principles. In one of his most famous speeches, Cargo Cult Science [], Richard Feynman specifically called out this type of research as being problematic:

    "One example of the principle is this: If you've made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish BOTH kinds of results."

    "I say that's also important in giving certain types of government advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would be better in some other state. If you don't publish such a result, it seems to me you're not giving scientific advice. You're being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don't publish at all. That's not giving scientific advice."

    IMHO the open source community is just as bad on average, if not worse. You better believe they have an agenda and they often aren't held under the same level of scrutiny as corporations, who have to face up to investors, competitors, governments, and "lottery ticket" lawsuits (especially Microsoft these days). The solution? We need fewer one-sided publishing of studies. We also need more studies overall, as they naturally conflict and are situationally dependent, but together would paint a better picture of the state of the world.

    Of course finding funding for unbiased studies that will be published regardless of outcome is probably hard to come by.

  • Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Svartalf (2997) on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:47PM (#14130447) Homepage
    The Linux admins were artificially given much more to do and screw up than the Windows admins, if the verbiage in the paper is to be believed. They were mandated to patch much more than is realistic, etc. in a production shop. If you were to have to patch all the local exploits in everything Windows related, you'd be very busy, moreso than the Linux admins- but they only had to do the Windows critical updates as MS provided them. The Linux admins were off patching everything- even if it wasn't very relevent to the servers (i.e. if it's a properly set up server, they shouldn't be ABLE to exploit local exploit possibilities, etc...). Worse, they had the guys doing manual updates to a lot of stuff, even though it WASN'T needed.

    The study's heavily stilted to favor Microsoft and Windows- either through ignorance or malice. It'd be your call on how it got there, but it DID get there all the same.
  • Re:MySQL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ookaze (227977) <ookaze&mail,ookaze,fr> on Monday November 28, 2005 @01:59PM (#14130538) Homepage
    It was actually one of the 3rd party components that required the GLIBC upgrade and not MySQL

    Which is not what is written in the report. In either case, sth is very wrong, because that only means your 3rd party WAS NOT supported by the platform, and yet, it has most market share on Linux ?
    So Suse, that was chosen, was not the platform with the most market share, not enough to be supported by this 3rd party. And yes, that would apply to Suse 8, as the 3rd party had most market share before your study, during which SLES 9 became available.

    Again, let me say that we chose components based on market share without knowing that these issues would crop up

    How come ? Every 3rd party tells you which platform they support !!!
    A Linux admin that does not know that is not even an admin.

    Most of this kind of stuff just ain't documented in the install/release notes

    Of course it is. It says SLES 8 supported or it doesn't, and then you ask.
    This is nonsense otherwise, and nonsense happened in this study.
  • Re:MySQL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BeBoxer (14448) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:10PM (#14130630)
    Many 3rd party commercial vendors only provide the binary RPMs and that was the case here too. Again, let me say that we chose components based on market share without knowing that these issues would crop up.

    Let's be honest here. You should have known that those issues might crop up. Binary incompatability is a well known problem with closed-source software, and not just on Linux. It's one of the major advantages of open-source software over closed-source. Having the source means I can rebuild the software for my system to avoid exactly this issue. Or more commonly, my distro can rebuild the software and provide me with an easy to use and fully compatable binary package.

    Any project which goes out and chooses what software to use exclusively based on "market share" deserves any problems they run into. That should be the conclusion of your study. When I go looking for applications to use, compatability is primary consideration. Having a maintained version included in my distro of choice (Debian for me) is a huge plus. If I do have to use closed-source, putting it into it's own isolated OS will probably end up a requirement as well since that's the easiest and most direct way of avoiding binary compatability issues.

    To compare Windows and Linux by forcing one of the biggest weaknesses of closed-source software onto the open-source solution is quite disingenous I think. It may be that the closed-source software is well and truely required and has no open-source competetor. But you never actually name the software, so no one can come along and say "hey, why not use GNU Mailman to handle the mailing" for example. Both mailing lists and search have many many open source options. Data mining has perhaps not so many, but in all liklihood that application can run on an indepenent server and connect to MySQL over the network. That would eliminate all the GBLIC problems.

    Really, not to sound snide, but the strongest conclusion I can make from this study is that I should not hire you to design my IT infrastructure. I can't say if it was ignorace or malice, but it sounds like you pretty much set the Linux side up for failure.
  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lifebouy (115193) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:11PM (#14130635) Journal
    I find it particularly funny that creationists are bashed mercilessly on Slashdot for their blind faith, while Slashbots act in very much the same manner when it comes to Windows versus Linux.
    You bring up a great point. Let me tell you why this happens. Slashdot, for the most part, is the IT community, and, for the most part, composed of highly intelligent people who actually do read studies and question things.
    Here's an anecdote to show what's really going on: Imagine some scientist writes up a study, and concludes that Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth. He or she will be battered by other scientists, who know that Everest is merely the tallest mountain on land, and that there are a great number of taller mountains along the ocean floors.
    The IT community, much of which composes Slashdot, knows from experience that in nearly every server situation Microsoft products are the poorest choice. Sometimes it's because of security concerns, other times it's because of potential vendor lock, or performance issues, etc., but there's always a better choice than windows for servers. Now, there are areas where MS Windows kicks butt, such as some forms of multimedia development (Flash, Director)...Okay, well, that's all that comes to mind. My point is, trying to sell "Microsoft is better" FUD to the IT community is like trying to sell Everest as the tallest mountain to the geological community. They just know better. And aside from personal views on creationism, let's look at the arguements. Every Intelligent Design arguement I've seen is based on classic con-artist tactics. As is most religious dogma. A Slashdotter, by now, should be able to smell bullshit a mile away, and they can. The reason ID get attacked so fiercely is exactly that. ID people make intelligent people want to scream, "Dumbass! You've been sold a half-baked con! Don't spread that shit around, you might infect others."
    And as a final thought, this is Slashdot. You will get flamed, whether you are right or wrong. If you want to have a serious conversation on a given topic, this is not the place.
  • by Shaman (1148) <shaman.kos@net> on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:12PM (#14130644) Homepage
    > Answer: SLES 8 was the most recent at the beginning of the study time period -
    > July 1, 2004

    True. But a second point would be to mention that SUSE is not a server distribution. Meaning that its packages, etc. are not set up for gentle updates. Which you found out. RedHat, Debian, Libranet would have been better choices.

    I have over 20 Linux servers, I didn't run into these issues. Coincidentally I've just had my first ever issue with updating GlibC (because I went from 32 to 64 bits when I did).

    I usually do a kernel upgrade when glibc is upgraded, and reboot the system. That gives me a fresh environment.

    >Answer: All the components used were available in the time-correct period of the
    >study. For example, if they installed a component in the simulated September 2004
    >time period then that version was available in September 2004.

    Interesting. Was this possible with Windows?

    > Answer: They did know that GLIBC could break things and tries to minimize the
    > breakages (see study)

    I read the study. To me, they looked like bumbling newbies. :)

    > At that time, SLES 9 was hot off the compiler.

    *nix systems almost always upgrade incrementally. It's highly doubtful that SLES 9 would be more buggy than SLES 8. The case could be made for the opposite, and you can be sure that most of SLES 9 was venerable packages going through minor point revisions. This is just the *nix way.

    > Answer: Not sure there's anything to respond to here...

    Ah but there is. I recently resurrected an Ultra 10 SPARC box (see above GlibC issue), which is just about as non-standard as it gets for a Linux install. I was able to install it in one afternoon, which included building a custom kernel with only the components I wanted, and updating over 600 packages to their most current versions from our Debian APT-proxy (which wasn't populated with SPARC packages, sadly). I also installed a Jabber server, Apache2 with PHP/PEAR, MySQL 5.x, DJBDNS, Courier-IMAP and compiled a few packages which aren't usually in Debian, and had it operating. I also mirrored the boot drives. All in one afternoon.

    And several "experienced" Linux admins had trouble making MySQL work on SUSE?
  • by arevos (659374) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:12PM (#14130646) Homepage
    The dubious points of the study have been pointed out several times. The problems stems from third-party software that was incompatible with the Linux system they used. All the study shows is that an unnamed third party piece of software doesn't work with a specific version of Linux. From this sample space of 1, the study infers that server administrators can implement business targets more easily in Windows than in Linux. The study simply isn't nearly comprehensive enough to come to any valid conclusion.
  • by khasim (1285) <> on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:14PM (#14130666)
    Yes, they should've allowed for the upgrading. The configuration control was overly stringent and caused undue breakage.
    But they DID allow for upgrading.

    In fact, it was part of the requirments.

    But they did NOT let them upgrade when any normal person would have. They REQUIRED them to stay on SLES 8 and backport patches from SLES 9 ... and then later they required them to upgrade to SLES 9.

    Any intelligent person would have skipped the backport process, done the upgrade when it became necessary and bypassed all the "problems" that were "found" in this "study".

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpcooke3 (306161) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:22PM (#14130756) Homepage
    I wonder if we would get the same results if we repeated the experiment, and not have it funded by Microsoft.

    It's traditional to fund 10 independant studies and publish the ones that came down on your side.
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:24PM (#14130776) Homepage

    Hell, no sys admin - Windows or Linux - should have upgraded anything as significant as the compiler or libraries without backing up the system first so he could back out the changes if something broke!

    The statement that "the RPM was broken so they couldn't undo their changes" right there tells you something was wrong with these guys!

    At the very least, they were probably pissed that they had to use a 3rd party proprietary system that used binary RPMs only!
  • Re:MySQL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:25PM (#14130789) Homepage
    So, the admins were free to use any tools they wanted, and this was supposed to be a test of Linux, yet you dictated components, (proprietary, binary-only components that you refuse to disclose, and that apparently weren't even supported on the Linux OS used,) based on market share. And Linux failed because, in order to comply with these requirements, your genuis admins performed a glibc upgrade that broke the system???

    Why am I supposed to take this seriously again?
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:31PM (#14130849) Homepage

    Excellent summary in one paragraph.

    Now, some people will say, "Well, this is what happens in a real corporate environment - you have to do what management wants you to do. And the issue is how well can you do it in one OS or the other?"

    But this is just begging the question. Worse, it's justifying piss-poor IT management decisions in the name of "reality", just biasing in favor of Windows and against OSS on the face of it. But you could easily find just as many bad decisions that result in Windows being screwed up than Linux. The point is that overall IT management policies and procedures have more to do with this study than either OS do. Which makes the study worthless as a comparison.

    The study also does nothing to examine how Linux and OSS in general have great flexibility in meeting business application needs compared to proprietary solutions. In fact, the study, by requiring closed source binary RPMS for an application, demonstrates the opposite.
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:43PM (#14130967) Homepage
    Maybe the Windows admins CAN'T do as much.

    THIS is a real world concern that has been expressed many times.
  • by Cylix (55374) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:55PM (#14131071) Homepage Journal
    It's easy to make something fail if you pick just the right circumstances.

    I'm sure it took several attempts to find the right mix, but hot damn they got it in the end.
  • Re:MySQL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:57PM (#14131087) Homepage
    Hello Dr. Thompson,

    I appreciate your answering questions on the report, it takes some courage to face a hostile community.

    Anyhow to the question, perhaps I should go back and read more, but what I would like to see are more specific details on the third party applications you were using, the issues they created, and how they were resolved.

    I'm curious because it appears that some initial rules and choices that were made for the study were a recipe for disaster. Its like telling two teams they will be in a race to navigate a course as fast as possible and they must choose their vehicle without knowing what the course will be and they are stuck with whatever vehicle they chose. One team chooses an Formula 1 race car while the other picks a nice luxury yacht. The race course turns out to be from the Florida Keys to Jamaica and back. The Formula 1 guys are forced to make their car work as a boat because the rules say you already chose so your stuck with it.

    Okay, so thats a bit extreme and perhaps I'm reading too much into your specifications for the model. For all I know the linux guys doomed themselves. But it sounds like the third party add-ons you were using are not properly supported on SuSE linux. If your results were typical of maintaining a linux e-commerce website then I doubt much of anyone would be using linux.

    This scenario seems to be a common occurrence when windows and linux are benchmarked and reported in a Microsoft funded study, note the following url: []

    When the grueling details are scrutinized there are some real issues that need to be resolved and the comparisons and details provide a benefit to the linux community and to Microsoft. What is not beneficial is touting the superiority of one OS over another based on some finding which is sqewed by picking a weak point which could be easily overcome by picking the correct software, hardware, and configuration.

    So how about some grueling details? ;)

  • Ahh... No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Concern (819622) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:01PM (#14131127) Journal
    Not really. Just more sophisticated than usual.

    There's a lot of fancy ducking and dodging, none of which changes the facts that:

    1. Whether you're crooked or not, you'll give the exact answers he gave about your ethics. We judge only by the work itself. If you asked me that question, that's what I'd say, not a lot of stuff I wouldn't expect anyone to believe.
    2. The sample size is far too small to be meaningful in any way to anyone, yet he did the study anyway, knowing full well how Microsoft would "misrepresent" it afterwards (if it cut their way, assuming this was ever in doubt).
    3. The work re. glibc done on the Linux boxes is absurd, unjustifiable, and utterly unrepresentative of normal Linux use. Yes, people hack their boxes up. But how many real business do that sort of thing in production?
  • Re:MySQL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grahammm (9083) * <> on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:04PM (#14131172)
    I suppose it also needs to be asked why they started off with such an old version of glibc. In July 2004, glibc 2.3.2 was the latest version and that been released for 15 months. Would it not have been reasonable to start the trial with at least semi-up-to-date software?
  • by Watts Martin (3616) <layotl@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:11PM (#14131250) Homepage
    With all due respect, welcome to enterprise-level IT. In several big companies I've been at, including the one I'm at now, corporate policy dictates what software you're using, particularly operating systems. And without getting into specifics, we'll just say that any OS version, regardless of vendor, that hasn't been around for at least a year isn't very likely to be running in such a place.

    The most unrealistic part of this study when it comes to deviance from "real world applications" is that, upon finding this problem, the study's authors didn't adequately simulate the series of e-mail messages, telephone conferences and face-to-face meetings between at least three departments, that would happen as people tried to find a solution everyone would bless. The solution the admins actually came up with, backporting from a more recent release to the officially-sanctioned one, is not at all unusual.

    Sure, there are companies out there that don't have enforced IT policies, but I haven't been to or worked with one bigger than a few hundred people that didn't have one. And once you have an IT department, they tend to try and clamp down on sysadmins doing their own thing, because consistency in management becomes more important to them than individual efficiency. (This isn't entirely bureaucratic nonsense, either, since if your unapproved software becomes important to the company and then breaks in a way you can't fix, it becomes their problem.) The study described here may not be perfect, but forcing the admins to work under arbitrary restrictions isn't a flaw.
  • by everphilski (877346) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:16PM (#14131288) Journal
    The problems stems from third-party software that was incompatible with the Linux system they used. All the study shows is that an unnamed third party piece of software doesn't work with a specific version of Linux.

    But these are legitimate problems we HAVE to deal with. These aren't issues really in the Microsoft world; but they are in the Linux world. This study brings it to light.

    The study simply isn't nearly comprehensive enough to come to any valid conclusion.

    And the author admits that too. But without more cash he can't do much more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:33PM (#14131474)
    4. A general mindset of trying to apply Microsoft/Sun server management theory to an Open Source platform.

    But... in fairness, that's what companies do.
  • Re:~FFE4 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by terevos (148651) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:43PM (#14131577)
    No offense to Dr. Thompson - but even if the study was completely unbiased, with only a set of 3 admins for each side, the results are basically meaningless. Since it did not meet the proper amount of replications, the chances that this study would be repeatable in another environment are simply unknowable.

    If you've taken a statistics class, you know that a total of 3 tests for each side is simply not enough to determine anything worth while. It's a wonder that Dr. Thompson is actually publishing these results as anything other than a sample, which will have a true test to come later. Reporting the results to a large audience just seems disingenuous.

    Again - no offense to you personally, Dr. Thompson. It's done all the time in statistics.
  • Re:MySQL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BeBoxer (14448) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:56PM (#14131705)
    You are only talking about compatability of older software on newer OS versions. Linux supports this, as does Windows, and pretty much every major OS in existence. But this study was trying to get compatability in the other direction. They were trying to run something which required a new GLIBC under an old OS. This would be like trying to run a binary compiled for Solaris 8 under Solaris 7. You might be able to make it work, but depending on the application it might be quite difficult. And it would certainly not be supported by Sun.
  • Re:MySQL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Krach42 (227798) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:09PM (#14131845) Homepage Journal
    It was actually one of the 3rd party components that required the GLIBC upgrade and not MySQL.

    Why were the SLES admins not allow to say basically that this 3rd party component is sufficiently incapable of working with their systems as is. Then, either go to the company that makes the 3rd party component, or "we'll take our business elsewhere."

    Was this something you would have possibly allowed them to do? Because if you were to run into this same sort of problem with Windows, one would have only the choice to upgrade the OS, or pick another product.

    Namely, if this same situation were to occur on Windows (they're using say, Windows 2003, and the SP1 comes out, and the 3rd party component won't work unless one has SP1) there would be no choice but to either upgrade to the newer version of Windows, pick another component supplier, or badger the component supplier for a compatible version.

    I don't think it fair to say that the Linux people had a hassle because they were able to take the option of getting it working on the older version. If anything this shows a greater flexibility of Linux at the cost of hassle, than Windows. And to force Linux to use this flexibility at the cost of easy of administration could be said to be entirely contrary to the entire purpose of the study.
  • Re:~FFE4 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morcego (260031) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:33PM (#14132066)
    As Dr. Thompson pointed out, his study is not conclusive (and never tried to be) on the Linux vs. Windows war. He was simply doing a case study. Even small changes on the way it happened to wield different results. Choosing Redhat or Slackware instead of SuSE.

    The problem is not the study, but what the outside parties will do with it. It provides with a set of data that can be used to many different marketing campaings: "Windows is better than Linux", "SuSE sucks, buy RedHat", "XXXX e-commerce solution is crap" and so on and so forth. One can even question the competence of the sysadmins (both Windows and Linux ones).

    That is the problem with studies of this kind. It is very easy to pervert it to "prove" anyone's opinion on the subject.
  • Where he fucked up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 246o1 (914193) on Monday November 28, 2005 @07:58PM (#14133798)
    He didn't, or at least, that's not the bad part. The key issue is that MICROSOFT DECIDES WHETHER TO RELEASE THE STUDY. This means that only good (for Microsoft) studies are released. A study like this provides an interesting road map for a real study, as mentioned in several of the answers, but it is far too small to be statistically significant. An easy method of sure success for Microsoft is:
    1. Commission many too-small studies with their $$$$$.
    2. Only allow the statistically insignificant positive results to be published.
    (3. Keep the info from all of the studies so that they end up with statistically significant results.)
    4. Profit!

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