In light of my recent entries, people might wonder how we've fared
with operating systems here and which
specific OSes have succeeded or failed. The necessary disclaimer
is that this is all from my personal perspective; my co-workers
might have a somewhat different view of things.
OSes that we've actively done things with while I've been here:
- OpenBSD: clear success within its domain.
OpenBSD is our automatic choice for anything to do with firewalls
(PF just works) and pretty much the default choice for related
networking things like VPN servers, routers, and so on. We have
a number of OpenBSD machines running additional simple network-related
services and they just go and go without problems.
- Ubuntu LTS: a success but I'm not enchanted with it.
Ubuntu LTS is our default Linux and thus our default Unix. Its
combination of a long 'support' period
and a wide vendor-supplied package collection continue to be
unmatched (and be what we need), but it has various flaws and
rough edges that leave me not really happy with it. Ubuntu LTS
is more something that I put up with than something I actually
- Solaris: failed, as discussed.
(We continue to build new fileservers
with Solaris to match the current ones.)
- RHEL/CentOS: failed in practice.
The short summary is that RHEL is not enough better than Ubuntu
LTS and it has worse package availability (from Red Hat; we don't
entirely trust EPEL, since it's a third party source). We've used
RHEL on a few servers but the minor improvements (if any) haven't
really been worth running another Linux distribution; the servers
could as well run Ubuntu LTS and simplify our lives. I keenly
regret this because I like RHEL better than Ubuntu LTS, but I
have to face reality here; it's not enough better (and it has
its own issues even apart from package availability).
Our iSCSI backends run RHEL 5 and
in theory the long support period is a great advantage for this.
In practice they're appliances and we never update them anyways,
so it's not clear how much this matters. We might stay with RHEL
or CentOS in this specific situation even if we were redoing them
from scratch today, just in case.
(We continue to build new iSCSI backends
with RHEL 5 to match the current ones.)
- Windows: TILT. Not applicable in our environment.
We have one Windows terminal server for a
specific, narrow purpose; to give our non-Windows users a way to run
Windows programs (especially the Office suite). There's no interest
in using Windows servers for anything else; as far as servers go, we're
a Unix shop.
- FreeBSD: never been seriously considered, would likely fail.
I don't think we've ever seriously looked at running FreeBSD based
servers. FreeBSD kind of fall into the 'RHEL zone', where it's
different but without any solidly compelling advantage we've
thought of. I've used FreeBSD enough in another environment to feel
that it's nothing particularly special as Unixes go.
It's possible that we'll wind up
using FreeBSD as our next generation ZFS platform, but even then I
don't think it would spread beyond that unless it turns out to be
(In general, unless Linux somehow gets real native ZFS support I
expect that any next generation ZFS platform would end up like
Solaris is for us today, ie used as a special purpose appliance
and no more. The most I'm hoping for is that the next generation
platform is more pleasant than our current Solaris one.)
OSes that were pretty much before my time here:
- Debian: failed due to being supplanted by Ubuntu LTS.
The problem with Debian in practice is that the support period
is too short unless Debian does releases only very slowly. Beyond
that, my impression is that Debian wound up being considered an
inferior version of Ubuntu LTS; the few Debian based servers we
used to have were replaced with ones based on Ubuntu LTS when we
focused on the latter.
(I actually built a Debian-based server here at one point (before
we focused on Ubuntu LTS) but it never made it into production.)
- Red Hat Linux (now Fedora): failed, I believe in part because the
support period is too short. Supplanted by Ubuntu LTS.
I don't think we've ever really looked at other Linux distributions; in
general it seems unlikely that they have enough of an advantage over
Ubuntu LTS to be attractive.
None of the other commercial Unixes are even on the radar (nor any of
the other *BSDs; if we're not considering FreeBSD, they're even
further down the list). Mac OS X is not something we run on servers,
although we have some Macs and Windows machines around as test clients
(since our users need our services to work with both).