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The empire strikes back. Mindcraft published a Microsoft-funded study this week which likely heralds the beginning of the real counterattack. Novell and Solaris users have already felt the effects of Mindcraft's approach to testing; they would not have been surprised by the summary of this latest report:
Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 is 2.5 times faster than Linux as a File Server and 3.7 times faster as a Web Server.
See Mindcraft's report for all the gory details.

There are a number of technical difficulties with Mindcraft's testing setup. We have put together a separate feature article summarizing those. The Linux server in their tests was clearly not performing at anything close to its full capability. (Eric Lee Green of Linux Hardware Solutions has put up a response of his own which is worth a read).

We would like to suggest that this test be redone. If need be, the players in the Linux market with the resources to do so should recreate the testing setup and run the tests with a properly configured Linux system. Let Mindcraft or whoever bring in as many NT experts as they want to tweak the NT server. It would be in the Linux community's interest to see this happen; we wager that the results would come out rather differently.

It is, meanwhile, interesting to see the kind of spin that Mindcraft put on their results. Consider this quote from Mindcraft's press release:

Linux definitely takes more time and resources to tune and to configure than Windows NT Server. You have to search the Net to find the latest kernel and driver versions to get the highest performance and most reliable modules. Then when you're done, Linux fails to deliver the same level of performance as Windows NT Server on enterprise-class servers.
This has nothing to do with the performance numbers they were allegedly supposed to be producing; it's a direct slam at Linux itself.

This quote seems less than straightforward when one reads the report and sees the amount of NT wizardry which was applied to tune their server. It's not the sort of thing one would find in the "for dummies" books. Plus they used a utility to bind ethernet cards to individual processors; to find that you have to go to Microsoft's FTP site to download it, and read about how it is "unsupported, use at your own risk." Using the available tools is fair. Using tuning and configuration experts is fair. But only if it's done on both sides, and one should not then say it was easy.

Consider also this quote from the report itself:

We posted notices on various Linux and Apache newsgroups and received no relevant responses. Also, we searched the various Linux and Apache knowledge bases on the Web and found nothing that we could use to improve the performance we were observing.
Numerous network sleuths went digging around for these postings; they finally turned up one posting which was sent to three groups: comp.os.linux.setup, comp.os.linux.networking, and comp.infosystems.www.servers.unix. None of these are the best places to get help in the configuration of high-end enterprise server systems. Their Apache server was misconfigured to the point that they do not have appeared to have looked much at the basic documentation, much less the "knowledge bases" they claim to have searched. This is just the "no support" thing coming back at us again.

Oh well, this episode should not really surprise too many people. There is more where this came from. All we have to do is to react calmly and maturely, and get on with what we are doing. And if it turns out that there are some real performance problems with Linux in that sort of setting - which is entirely possible - all that needs to happen is what the free software community does best: fix them.

And speaking of more, the Capital Research Center came out against free software. Check out their rather lengthy report. Their real target is Ralph Nader, and they go after free software as one of his causes. "But what happens when the OSS method of production is applied to thousands of software applications with millions of users requiring product support and attention to their particular needs? How do consumers identify the products they need when software is constantly evolving and there are no standard products that enable users to share compatible information? The 'free' nature of OSS quickly collapses into chaos." (Found in OS News).

Oh, yes, and Bill Gates says Linux will have a limited impact. See this Reuters article (via CNN) for more.

And also: the "where do you want to go tomorrow?" slogan has been removed from the German site linux.de. The following is their explanation, translated from the German by Leo Cooper:

A well-known firm with a similar slogan recently demanded that we remove our beloved "Where do you want to go tomorrow?" tag line. We are complying with this demand until this legal question can be clarified.

The legal implications of this similarity of slogans remain murky. Stay tuned for another episode.

Certification board named. The Linux Professional Institute has announced the appointment of an advisory body to oversee their certification efforts. Members include Jon Hall, Phil Hughes, Dave Sifry, Mark Bolzern, Donnie Barnes, Patrick Volkerding, and more. Their certification efforts appear to be gathering some real momentum.

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April 15, 1999


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