Monday, December 27, 2010

It is a Platform or a Religion?

Blog posts like this annoy me. "Anyone who was ever fool enough to believe that Microsoft software was good enough to be used for a mission-critical operation..."

I’m annoyed enough to keep that link in my ‘ToBlog’ notebook for over a year. That’s annoyed, ‘eh?

Apparently the system failed and the blogger decided that all failed systems that happen to be running on Windows fail because they run on windows.

A word from the blind.

I've been known as 'anti-Microsoft', having had a strong preference for Netware and Solaris on the server side and OS/2 & Solaris on desktops. At home I went for half to a decade without an MS product anywhere in the house. Solaris on SunRays with Star Office made for great low energy, low maintenance home desktops that ran forever.

My anti-Microsoft attitude changed a bit with NT4 SP3, which even though it had a badly crippled UI, was robust enough to replace my OS/2 desktop at work. My real work still got done on Solaris though. On the server side, I didn't see much to like about Windows, using it only where there were no other choices.

Windows 2003 finally changed my mind. After running W2k3 and SQL Server 2000 'at scale' on a large mission critical on line application, and after having badly abused it by foisting upon it a poorly written turd of an application, and after further compounding the abuse by my own lack of Windows and SQL experience, I had to conclude that one couldn't simply declare that Windows was inferior, or that it didn't scale, or that is wasn't secure. If you wanted to bash Microsoft and still be honest, you'd have to qualify your bashing, hedge it a bit, and perhaps even provide specific details on what you are bashing.

It was after a few months of running a large MS/SQL stack that I was quoted as follows:

'It has display an unexpected level of robustness'


'It doesn't suck as bad as I thought it would'.

Now days I'm pretty close to being platform neutral. I have preferences, but they are not religious.

For any application that can run on up to 32 cores, SQL server works. Period. It might work on larger installs, but I don't have experience with them, so I can't comment on them.

Microsoft SQL server has a cost advantage over Oracle, so for any application that doesn't need Oracle Streams, Partitioning RAC or other advanced features, SQL Server tends to be the default. It certainly is far cheaper to meet a typical availability requirement with SQL server than Oracle, so for any application with an availability requirement that allows for an occasional 3 minute downtime (the time it takes for a database cluster to fail over), the Microsoft stack is a viable choice. My experience is that unplanned cluster failovers are rare enough that active/passive failover makes our customers happy.

For applications than can be load balanced, the Microsoft stack can be made as reliable as any other. Load balancing also mitigates the monthly patching that Microsoft requires.

For what it’s worth, the vendor of the ‘turd’  has improved the application to the point where it is a very well written, scalable, robust application running on a very, very robust database and operating system (Server 2008, SQL 2008).

It’s a platform, not a religion, so I reserve the right to change my dogma and preach to a different choir as systems evolve and circumstances change.

FWIW – I really, really liked OS/2’s Workplace Shell. I wish that Apple and Microsoft would figure out how to build a desktop like that.

Yeh, I’m still cleaning out my ToBlog queue.


  1. I too used to be anti-MS, namely for reasons to do with manageability and performance, and I like scripting - but I've mellowed over the years. I still work primarily with UNIX, but as an engineer you have to focus on what solves the problem best and sometimes Windows works.

  2. That's really the major downs side to MS Windows. It's much harder to manage in a scripted, change managed environment.

    And it doesn't have something the equivalent of sudo.