Server Operating Systems

December 23, 2007

As many of you already know, there are several different operating systems. Some of the more popular ones include:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Microsoft Windows Server 2000
Microsoft Windows NT Server
Novell NetWare 6.5
Sun Solaris

Most people use Windows Server 2003, Novell NetWare, Solaris or a Linux distro, so those are the ones I will focus on.

Microsoft Windows Server 2003

Windows Server 2003 is available in several different editions, including the Standard Edition, which costs $995 with five client access licenses. The Web Edition sells for less than $400 and is a Web hosting and Web application platform. The Enterprise Edition supports up to 8 processors, supports eight node clusters with failover, and has 32GB of memory. There is a 64-bit version as well for Itanium systems. The Datacenter Edition offers support for up to 32 processors and 64GB of memory in the 32-bit version. This edition is available for OEMs and VARs who qualify for Microsoft’s certification program. The 64-bit version can scale up to 128-way SMP systems and 512GB of RAM. It can be configured for up to 8 node clusters. Included in this version are load balancing and a system management utility called the Windows System Resource Manager.

The Small Business Server 2003 Edition supports a single domain with no trust relationships, supports up to 75 connected users (provided you purchase the client access licenses), and comes with a suite of applications, including Exchange, SharePoint and a basic firewall. The Premium version adds both SQL Server and Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, which is a proxy, firewall and caching server. Because of trust limitations, this edition isn’t viable for a workgroup in larger system. The Windows Storage Server 2003 edition is a highly-tuned version of a file and print server. You cannot buy this version of the O/S alone: you may only purchase it from a certified VAR or OEM as a hardware software bundle.  The pricing for this edition is aggressive, and it does not require connected clients to obtain client access licenses.

Novell NetWare 6.5

NetWare was one of the last major enterprise networking platforms to accept TCP/IP as its native protocol. The current version is 6.5, and Novell advertises it as “the most reliable foundation for deploying business-critical, open-source enabled solutions.” Novell bundles the Novell Cluster Services Solution into 6.5, which allows you to create two-node server clusters, both locally and as a failover to a remote location. Other new features include its native support for iSCSI, which is a server migration wizard and server consolidation utility, and the NOS built-in snapshot backup tool. NetWare also comes bundled with a browser-based network management tool that Novell calls iManager, which can inventory your network clients and servers.

Sun Solaris

Solaris is arguably the best-supported version of UNIX in the PC server marketplace. What makes Solaris special is that there are more applications running on Solaris than on all other UNIX versions combined – about 10,000 or more. Solaris comes in two versions: one that runs on the SPARC and UltraSPARC processors, and one that runs on the Intel x86 processor platform. Solaris 10 began to incorporate Linux APIs and can also natively run Linux binaries on the x86 platform. The Sun O/S is released under what is called the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), based on the Open Source Initiative (OSI) license model. Solaris 10 concentrated on adding a number of new networking features, including an improved dual IP stack, better IPv6 support, Layer 3 multipathing (featuring better network redundancy), better streaming and session support, an improved Solaris Network Cache Accelerator (NCA), and a new technology called Solaris Containers (previously known as N1 Grid Containers). IPv6 support also means that there is better support for the IPSec secure communications protocol and with the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) infrastructure. Solutions on Sun tend to be more expensive than those on other platforms, and because you are buying proprietary hardware, there is a narrower choice of hardware from which to choose.


Linux is an interesting proposition as a server NOS platform because it has been embraced by almost all major server hardware vendors, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell and others. The Linux O/S us an open source project and is loosely based on UNIX, but it has its own kernel, which is what the name Linux actually refers to. Linux runs on a variety of processor platforms, but most often appears on the Intel x86 processor platform. Linux’s low cost has given the O/S a position in small, embedded systems such as set-top boxes, PDAs such as the Symbian O/S, phones, routers and firewalls from companies such as Linksys and even the TiVo personal video recorder (PVR). There are, perhaps, as many as 300 distributions of Linux, ranging from packages such as Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) that are meant for desktop users to Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, which is sold as a server platform. The Red Hat version of Linux dominates the sales of this platform for server applications. Most organizations adopt Linux servers for two reasons: The lower cost of licensing the O/S and the modest equipment demands of Linux.


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