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Date:      Wed, 24 Jun 1998 22:52:50 -0400 (EDT)
From:      CyberPeasant <>
Cc:        freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.ORG
Subject:   Re: Feasibility as Enterprise Server
Message-ID:  <>
In-Reply-To: <"0624140818-Feasibility as Enterprise Server"@MHS> from "" at "Jun 24, 98 09:54:20 am"

Next in thread | Previous in thread | Raw E-Mail | Index | Archive | Help wrote:
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> Usually the two choices for a Small company LAN OS are NT or Netware.  
> Each have advantages and disadvantages.  I don't like either very much.
> I would like to head toward FreeBSD 2.2.6 as the network OS for a new 
> network with about 50 DOS, WfW, and Windows NT, and even MAC clients.  
> I'm looking for answers to the following questions.  I apologize there 
> are so many; I've tried to put the most important ones first.  Oh - this 
> network is not for Monsanto Company.
> 2) Robustness, Reliability - IMO NT doesn't come close to Netware.  Can
> I realistically put my companies files on a FreeBSD box? (with backups,
> of course!)  Do I need a HP-9000 with HP-UX?

Choose your platform based on load. FreeBSD runs on the lower end
single processor intel hardware, although SMP is in the works. If you
require higher end stuff, look to Sun or SMP Alphas from digital (well,
what's left of digital), running Solaris or DEC Unix, respectively.
Or divide and conquer with multiple FreeBSD boxes. Hmm, I've seen
benchmarks of single PPro FreeBSD outperforming double PPro NT.

Yahoo uses F'BSD. Lots of mission-critical stuff is held on 'nix
boxes, including the free 'nixes. The file system code is very
mature and reliable -- it dates from the early '80s, is public
knowledge, and has been dragged through the coals on a huge variety
of hardware.  NT is using either a floppy-disk fs, or /new/ code,
written in secret by a company with a less than stellar reputation
for software quality. Buy /reliable/ hardware, though. "Waste" a
lot of money on the backup tape drive. Better a flakey disk than
a flakey tape.

Only M$ salesmen believe that NT is reliable enough for "bet the
company" applications. I shudder at the thought.

A unix system "panic" is cause for severe alarm, and great surprise.
Sirens go off...people run around, dumps are taken, analyzers are
thrown on networks, heads are scratched, hackers are called in from
home, and crackers are suspected.  Vendors are notified, and then
they get /real worried/, too.  OTOH, an NT "bluescreen" is Standard
Operating Procedure.  Uptime on a conservative Unix system can be
measured in months or years, not hours, /under continual load/.
Compare the flurry of activity when a bug is reported to a FreeBSD
list, as opposed to "This may be fixed in the next release".
A prime 'BSD design goal is "NO BUGS". A prime NT design goal is

The only reasons to reinstall a Unix system is hardware failure or
system upgrade. (9999/10000 times. There are exceptions...)

Glitches in applications or daemons usually don't hose the whole
system.  Rebooting should be /rare/. Expect 24/7 operation.  Only
P-C OS's are not designed this way. A 16-bit application running
on a default NT system, has access to kernel address space. Shudder.
(Am I right about that? Thought I read that somewhere.) I think
that NT apps by default have access to I/O space. (same question?
Is this true?)

When I ran old VAX hardware, a system crash was considered a fully
justified reason for on-site manufacturer's field service.

> 3) What sort of a machine do I need.  "Jordan's picks" seem oriented
> toward workstations.  RAID?  SCSI?  Tape backups?

The initial purchase cost should be downplayed. /For the same
capabilities/, a FreeBSD (or any 'nix system) will end up being
cheaper than NT, and probably cheaper than Netware.  For a robust
file-server, mail router, etc, go with SCSI. Consider no alternatives
like IDE -- it is a small economy and a major admin and performance
hit. If you go IDE, you will find yourself eventually going SCSI
when you need to expand, or when loads reach a certain level. Start
with SCSI. Go RAID if you need it. An IDE system just won't cut it
for multi-user serving or heavy db hits.

The difference between a $10k and a $15k initial acquisition comes
out to about 5000/36 = 138$/month. This is about one man-hour of labor,
or one business lunch for two, or ...  Put it in the proper perspective.

> 4) What about network administration?  Is FreeBSD realistically
> usable in the office environment?

It was born there. Administration is typically done by an expert.
The ease of administering NT is grossly overstated. The difficulty
of dealing with 'nix is also overstated. Consider where these statements
come from. 

For one thing, Unix has disk quotas. NT doesn't, AFAIK.

> 5) How does FreeBSD handle open files during automatic backups?

Depends. Nothing will handle them correctly given the nature of
the filesystems used on the systems under consideration. (I think :)

> 6) Will FreeBSD support typical printers such as HP 5's with JetDirect
> software?  Or must I connect the printer to the parallel port?  Is one
> or the other way better then the other?

Well it won't run Windoze device drivers. Printer sharing with 
directly connected printers is an old Unix capability.

> 7) What about virus immunity?

This is a DOS/Windoze problem. They can be propagated /through/ unix
servers, but don't affect them. Unix has a different set of vandalism
problems. The general impression is that the "free" Unix communities
respond /very/ rapidly to these problems, and never seem to adopt
the ostrich attitude. The advantage of being able to apply open-
source bug fixes /to the source code/ cannot be underestimated. The
fix can get out to the world in a matter of hours, and /you/ can
see exactly what it is.

> 8) What about security, both general security and file isolation to
> particular users in my user community?

File security is weak, compared to mainframe systems. Overall security
will be much more than NT. The NT file security model (Access Control
Lists) is "better" than Unix's frankly crude model, but the
implementation of NT's security may leave much to be desired. In short,
what a Unix system says it does, it usually does do.

> 9) Are there e-mail clients for the WfW, Win95, NT, DOS, and MAC
> platforms that can use the FreeBSD server for the mail?


> 10) Should X be a part of a server's configuration?, or does it consume
> too many resources?

It depends what you call "too many". On a big fast machine with
plenty of disc, which is what we're talking about, X's footprint
will be tiny.  Who's going to use it? If you're talking about an
admin at the console using X-based tools, the impact is going to
be small. Just don't play quake or whatever on the server. (At
least during busy time). Or run a graphical browser. X will run OK
on a 486/33 + 16MB memory. That's a /rough/ statement of its demands
for running some xterms.  Hmm: you can, of course, stick an /actual/
486 like that on the net, and remotely administer /everything/.
Can't do that with NT, AFAIK. Can you admin NT over a modem?

> 11) In Netware, client configurations are "server-based" (via login scripts).
> Is this possible using a FreeBSD server?  (I think this is a not really.)

The philosophy is a little different. Unix is more "client based", I think.
But I'm not authoritative here! I'm not sure what you mean, probably
because I don't know diddly about Netware.

> 16) Finally, is FreeBSD going away?  I hope not.  It's what I use most
> at home and I've set it up everywhere I go.  It's a really great product.
> I may have the opportunity to apply it in a new way.

Suppose you committed to it fully. Suppose FreeBSD was then outlawed.
You could be up and running on a Net- or OpenBSD system in a day,
on Linux in two days. Changing the hardware, you could migrate to
DEC Unix or Solaris or HP-UX with ease. Tell your bosses that Unix
is "second sourced".

Now suppose NT were outlawed. Recall that there is a big nasty court
case going on with its sole-source. The BSD's have already (1980's)
been in and out of court, and are "clean" now.

Other arguments:

Equipment that would be trashed in an all-NT shop (like old high-end
486's) can do /useful/ work in a Unix shop, and integrate "seamlessly".

Stick NT workstation on endusers' desks (if they demand it), and use
unix systems for everything else.

Well, enough. sorry for any blather.

-- `Microsoft Windows NT Server is the most 
                  secure network operating system available.'
Don Quixote: `You are mistaken, Sancho.'

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