When you spin up a cloud server, a basic and immediate question must be answered first: should you use Windows or Linux? Let’s compare the operating systems, both based on popularity and with a thorough discussion from experts on both sides of the aisle.
- Which Server OS is Winning?
- Is Linux or Windows Server Better, Though?
- 1 – Functionality
- 2 – Stability
- 3 – Specific Application to Cloud
- Spinning Up a Cloud VPS
Which Server OS is Winning?
Typically, when people think about the two top operating systems, they think of the client-side rivalry between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OSX. However, on the server side, things are a little different: instead of a battle between huge tech corporations, it’s a battle between two tech approaches. Windows Server represents the proprietary side, and Linux represents the open source side.
When people make the decision between Windows and Linux, the first question most people have is which one is more popular. A good place to find that out is through the W3Techs Web Technology Surveys. Basically these surveys are a collection of diagrams, updated every day, based on scans of top websites. By looking at the top 10 million websites in the Alexa rankings, W3Techs is able to provide a fair idea of how much certain technologies are being used. In the case of server operating systems used by those 10 million sites (roughly the top 1% of all live sites on the Internet), Linux is the big winner:
- Unix (primarily Linux) – 67.1%
- Windows – 32.9%
In other words, Linux beats out Windows by just over 2-to-1 in adoption rate for server operating system. Keep in mind that these statistics are just for websites, though, and don’t necessarily tell us what’s best-liked for cloud VPS deployments.
Is Linux or Windows Server better, though?
Just because Linux is popular of course does not mean its better. What are some positives and negatives of each option? Let’s look at thoughts from experts on each of the two operating systems: Linux author/consultant Sander van Vugt and eight-time Microsoft MVP Brien Posey. These are broad comparisons, but cloud is a key topic of discussion.
1 – Functionality
When you think about functionality, your first question should be how you want to use the server, says van Vugt. “Windows isn’t going away any time soon, in particular as a corporate authentication and authorization platform,” he says. “But as applications move more to cloud platforms, Windows servers are moving out and making way for Linux as the server OS of choice.”
Van Vugt notes that Windows is known as a comprehensive, all-in-one OS that makes management simple. On the other hand, Linux is generally used within data centers to provide specific individual services.
It would be completely reasonable for businesses to deploy Linux systems for various purposes, but the convention is that they are task-specific. Linux is a free OS, so it would make sense to create various OS instances, each handling a separate task. In other words, you could have many different cloud VPS servers running separate tasks, and that would mean immediately better security than you’d have with many different services on a single server, whether VPSs on dedicated machines or cloud servers.
Despite van Vugt’s comments, Posey stresses that Windows Server is actually typically dedicated to singles tasks in the enterprise for more efficient resource use. In datacenters, that has been difficult in the past because of the expense of licensing.
However, you can use Hyper-V to virtualize an unlimited number of VPSs on a single server today, so that’s no longer a problem. Plus, in the cloud, these concerns become essentially irrelevant because you simply spin up VMs for each task, regardless of OS.
2 – Stability
Linux was seen as more stable than Windows up until 2003. From that point forward, notes van Vugt, they have both been viewed as fundamentally stable.
“Both Windows and Linux OSes can only be brought down by hardware with faulty drivers,” he says. “Don’t choose a server OS based on outdated notions of stability: Windows and Linux are at the same level here.”
Posey essentially concurs. He adds that Windows Server has become increasingly stable over the past decade due to extensive testing and certification of hardware with which it’s compatible.
3 – Specific Application to Cloud
Most major tech companies support a Linux cloud infrastructure, which makes it evident that it is increasingly becoming the standard as the virtual OS. There are proprietary cloud platforms as well, such as Microsoft’s, but van Vugt sees those options fading over time.
Posey notes that Microsoft’s software-as-a-service offerings are supported by Hyper-V running on Windows Server. Plus, “[m]any third-party cloud service providers allow customers to create virtualized Windows Server instances in the cloud.” Atlantic.Net is an example of such a provider.
Spinning Up a Cloud VPS
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Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!