Windows vs. Linux: Time to Call a Truce?

It's time for Windows and Linux partisans to put aside their differences long enough to find ways to make the two operating systems work better together, a Windows Server consultant tells attendees at the Microsoft TechEd 2006 conference.

BOSTON—Its time for the Windows and Linux communities to drop the religious war and get together in a hurry to put the strengths of each operating system to best use, according to a nationally recognized authority on Windows Server.

There is still a broad knowledge gap about how to get Windows and Linux to work better together, and these issues wont be resolved until the two communities put aside the whole "religion" issue, said Jeremy Moskowitz, a consultant and authority on Windows 2000/2003 Server, Active Directory and SMS, to attendees at the annual TechEd developer show here.

In a session titled "Windows/Linux integration: The Art of the Possible" on June 12, Moskowitz said that Linux is free like a puppy is free, "but after that comes the costs of training and the leashing and the dog-sitter."

While Linux has been more stable than Windows historically, that gap is now narrowing. But there are a lot fewer reboots with Linux, he said, asking the audience whether Linux has less security bugs.

After hearing their response, he acknowledged that there is no consensus on this question and that from his perspective, "it appears to be equal. Windows has more patches, but Microsoft releases them more frequently and fixes things more quickly," said Moskowitz.

Not everything in Linux is ready for prime time, including the GUI client-side tools that should be Kerberized like their server counterparts, he said, adding that bringing new technology into an environment always has some cost.

"At the end of the day, both Windows and Linux bring things that are good, and we can all get along and we should look at how we can leverage the strength of each to the benefit of the other," he said.

Turning to the specific strengths of each, Moskowitz said Windows has been very successful with Active Directory, especially for single sign-on and single location source, or Distributed File System.

Windows is also a leader in applications and the application ecosystem; and it is clearly the dominant player on the desktop, he noted.

However, Moskowitz said Linux is doing a good job of playing catch-up and is also strong in the areas of "terminal services"-style functionality, firewall/networking tools, databases and custom applications.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about how Microsoft is concentrating on making it easier for customers to obtain security fixes and system updates.

Linux has also proved very successful at file sharing, Web services and programming--especially with LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python), terminal services style functionality; firewall and networking tools and custom applications, he said. Another potential strength is databases, which is where Moskowitz said he expects the next challenge to Microsoft to come from.

So, where could integration start? Moskowitz suggested a scenario wherein Windows and Linux clients could be authenticated to a Unix NIS (Network Information System) Server. "Active Directory can be made to look like an NIS server, and the reason why you might want to make Active Directory an NIS server is that this would leave the Unix clients basically untouched; they would only need to rebind to the AD/NIS server; and the Unix NIS servers can be recommissioned," he said.

"The ideal goal would be to use modern standards for authentication for both Windows and Linux [LDAP and Kerberos]," he said, before showing a slide on "the authentication recipe."

More information and resources on Windows and Linux integration can be found here.

This involves extending Active Directory using SFU (Services for Unix) 3.5 schema or Windows Server 2003 R2; creating an account that can search Active Directory; downloading open-source tools to help with authentication and reconfigure them; instructing Linux about how to look up Unix account information in Active Directory; and instructing Linux clients how to handle home directories, he said.

Moskowitz also sketched scenarios under which printing could be integrated between Windows and Linux, as a likely first place to start before turning to e-mail integration.

This will be a key factor, since it is a given that Microsoft Exchange isnt going away any time soon, a point he made by first asking whether there was anyone in audience who works at a site that is phasing out the e-mail and collaboration system. Only one attendee answered in the affirmative.

The problem with integration is trying to achieve true single sign-on, which "is really tough, and the last mile will be a long mile, especially as we face dueling authentication systems," Moskowitz said.

Furthermore, lackluster application support, Moskowitz said, still remains an issue for Linux, along with a dearth of updated code on many open-source projects at and a shortage of resources like specific walkthroughs and other documentation.

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