Sunday, March 2, 2008

The influence of Unix on Windows 2008

Sam Ramji has an excellent blog post on the influence of 'Open Source' on Windows 2008. also has an interesting interview with Andrew Mason on Windows Server Core that explains some of the fundamentals of Windows 2008.

System admin scripting is finally being elevated to a first class tool for administering servers. This is a fundamental change in direction for Windows system admins, and for me, changes the equation as far as determining the best operating system for deploying an application.

I'm really looking forward to being able to write tools, scripts and utilities to manage Windows servers, instead of the incredibly error-prone human mouse-click & check-box methods that we currently use. Mouse-click management is the worst possible way to ensure that our servers are configured identically and securely.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how close Windows Server Core come to making appliance-like stripped down systems possible to build using the Windows platform. I've always favored Unix-like OS's for building DNS, DHCP and similar light weight, single purpose severs. Right now, our standard Solaris build for a server that is fully functional as an Apache web server or DNS is about a 500MB bootable image. That 500MB gets us a full functional, fully manageable server, suitable for hosting many or most of our applications. If we need a sever that has to run Java, the image size almost doubles, but that is still pretty light weight as far as I am concerned. When we churn through the weekly Solaris security patch reports, we have the wonderful ability to draw a line through the vast majority of them with the simple notation: 'Not vulnerable, package not installed....'.

Today, with a Windows 2003 web or application server, we start out with a 20GB boot disk with about 4+ GB in use, not including the swap file, just to get a bootable server. That bootable server is fully loaded, with far more functionality, features, and vulnerable software than we'll ever use. We spend a day per month analyzing the latest patch Tuesday vulnerability list and figuring out if we have mitigation in place for any of the vulnerabilities. It would sure be nice to check 3/4 of them off the list with a simple -'Not vulnerable, package not installed....'.

It looks like Micrososft is starting to think differently about servers. I'm happy about that.

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