Written for the Technical Communication course at Mälardalens högskola: Comparison report.

Comparison report on server operating systems

Peter Karlsson, <pk@mds.mdh.se>

May, 1999

This report compares three common operating systems for servers, namely Linux, Sun Microsystems' Solaris and Microsoft's Windows NT. The three criteria considered are stability, price, and availability and quality of bug fixes.


Solaris has a proven track record of being extremely stable, up-times of a year, or even more, are not unusual for server running under normal load. This makes them a great choice if down-time is very costly to the organization.

Solaris is included in the price of the machines if you buy Sun Microsystems' own hardware, but Solaris for regular PCs starts at USD 700, and increases with the number of microprocessors in the machine, and how much support you need.

Sun Microsystems take seriously on fixing problems in their operating system, and make updates available for download regularly.


Linux is becoming more and more stable as it grows. It is even now not unusual for server up-times of over half a year without restarting.

Linux systems in several fashions can be downloaded for free over the Internet, so the software cost is practically zero. However, large companies generally need support deals, which are offered by several companies all over the globe.

The authors of Linux and its surrounding software are usually very fast in supplying fixes to bugs and security problems, and since the source code is available, anyone with sufficient knowledge can fix the problem. Generally, a fix is available within 48 hours.

Windows NT

Windows NT is not known for its stability, especially since it is known to be vulnerable to several denial-of-service attacks. Up-times of two to four weeks are common, before the machine has to be restarted.

Windows NT pricing is based on how many users are accessing the server. A license for five clients is priced at SEK 7650.

Microsoft releases ServicePacks for Windows NT at regular intervals, and makes smaller bug-fixes available in the time in-between. However, it is not unusual for the ServicePacks to introduce new problems.


If extremely high availability is wanted, I would recommend Sun's Solaris, because of its proven track record. However, Linux is on the rise, and several big companies are turning to it, and none of the others can compete with the price.


About this document ...

Comparison report on server operating systems

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