The dizzyingly diverse world of Linux-based operating systems is, for the most part, divided into two separate camps: those of conservative, stable and pay-per-machine "enterprise" distributions, and those of up-to-date, short-lived, free-of-charge "enthusiast" options.
-specifically in its desktop iteration-has earned a spot on our list of top products of 2008 by bridging the enterprise-vs.-enthusiast divide with a freely available Linux-based OS and a support term of three years, compared with about 18 months for Red Hat's and Novell's enthusiast distributions.
While "free" is an attractive quality in its own right, what's most appealing about Ubuntu is the broad and active community that has rallied around Ubuntu and its unified enterprise/enthusiast release structure. Ubuntu 8.04 features most of the same software components as other distributions, but Ubuntu's popularity results in more ready-to-install software packages, more troubleshooting answers out on the Web and, increasingly, more OEM preload availability than other desktop Linux options.
VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 offers enterprises an impressive, mature framework for making virtualization promises a reality.
The foundation of VI3 is VMware's ESX Server. The platform supports a wide variety of guest OSes, including Windows, Solaris and Linux. The suite uses VMware's VirtualCenter management server to control systems. Companies looking to consolidate single-application servers, squeeze more out of underutilized hardware, extend the availability of their networked services and get a surer handle on the machines in their data centers would do well to evaluate VI3, which can deliver compelling results in any of these scenarios.
VMware's product line is the clear leader among x86- and x86-64-based server virtualization products, and VI3 is the firm's flagship product. I do recommend keeping an eye on the emerging Xen-based offerings from Virtual Iron and XenSource, as well as on the Xen-based functionality that's built into Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hat's Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.
Windows Server 2008
At a time when Vista missteps had many questioning Microsoft's product development mojo, the release of Windows Server 2008
demonstrated that the company is capable of putting out a lean and well-performing operating system with features in sync with customer needs.
In recognition of the growing importance of "just enough OS" system configurations, such as in virtual machine deployments, Windows Server 2008 introduced a stripped-down Server Core configuration for hosting certain Windows Server roles.
What's more, Windows Server 2008 featured a much more modular and securable Web server in IIS (Internet Information Services) 7.0, marked the debut of Microsoft's own hypervisor technology in Hyper-V, and introduced a slate of manageability enhancements for both command-line and GUI adherents.-J.B.