Those who know me well know that I often recommend Linux for the mail servers that I sell and for any task where reliability and performance are important. I've been doing so for many years, but now, as I get closer to the age where I will put all this behind me, perhaps it's time to come clean and be truthful.
It's all a total crock.
Oh, yes, running a Linux server does cost less and will be more reliable. Linux will usually outperform any alternative, also. That's all certainly true. However, you should never actually DO that.
Yes, not paying Microsoft licenses on top of your application licenses is nice, and sometimes it's nice to have better speed, and certainly you don't want your server crashing daily, but extreme reliability is never at the top of anyone's list.
Oh, yes, it may APPEAR at or near the top of the list, but it's always a lie. What people really want is "easy".
Of course "easy" can be hard to pin down. I can't give you a firm definition in this context, but I can tell you that it definitely does NOT mean "efficient". As we'll see shortly, nobody wants efficient - efficiency is not something that will ever appear on a project punch list unless it was jokingly put there by some wise guy bent on causing trouble. No, "feature rich" is desirable, but "efficient" is not important.
That "easy" and "feature rich" are factually at odds with one another should be obvious, but in fact they are often made to look as though they complement each other. Feature rich and easy trump reliable a hundred times over.
The boss wants easy and feature rich and pretty pie charts because that's what he or she was taught to want in Management School. While the boss almost certainly did take a statistics class and is capable of understanding any reliability statistics offered, these numbers tend toward many decimal places and therefore eyes glaze over and heads nod. Few things are more boring than reliability.
The users don't want reliable. Again, they want features and to never be asked to use their brains. That many users may have invested a great deal of money obtaining an education that would prove that they CAN use their brains is an oddity: none of them WANT to. Having lots of fun and utterly useless reports they can send to each other and schedule meetings to discuss is important. Reliability is not.
The support staff definitely does not want reliable. Jobs are at risk here! Microsoft Windows has absolutely created more jobs than anyone from the Unix server era could ever had imagined! Let's not screw that up with stupid Penguins!
Oh, everyone will SAY they want this, of course. Some may even believe it. But reality is that there are too many hours in a working day and a fast, high performance system can leave people sitting there with nothing to do. Obviously they don't want that: again, jobs are at risk. Not that their supervisors would ever want to trim staff, of course, as their own salaries always have at least some relation to the number of desks they oversee.
And while support staff can wile away slack time playing computer games with their friends, they don't want performance because the longer a task like a backup takes to run, the more time there is for Call of Duty or whatever it is these types play now.
Of course cost figures into somebody's spreadsheet somewhere, but there is much more to it. You see, high cost that can be justified with lots of feature rich stuff that will keep everyone busy sending reports, looking at pie charts and supporting it is good for everyone.
It's good for the boss because it's bragging rights on the golf course if he or she owns the company and it is bragging rights on their resume if they are planning a move up or have carelessly diminished some figures at the bottom of the P&L and think that they may need to plan that move soon.
It's good on the users resumes for similar reasons. The more feature rich the app they use is, the more chance some other company is using it and that, my friend, is employment security. A resume that mentions Ubuntu server might be helpful to someone in support, but it would be odd and perhaps troubling in any other context. Mentioning XP, Vista and Windows 8 is very useful, however.
As to support, Linux is fine on their resumes, but being part of an eight person Microsoft Exchange support team is far, far better.
So there it is. The naked truth about Linux. My advice, my HONEST advice, is to avoid it completely.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2014-04-08 Anthony Lawrence