This is a counter-rant in reply to David Gewirtz’s article on ZDnet “Why I’ve finally had it with my Linux server and I’m moving back to Windows“.
Allow me to use people moving as an analogy to computing. On one end of the spectrum you have desktop computers. These are like cars. There is a range from Honda Civic to Chevrolet Corvette; from the Apple iMac to the Alienware Area-51; from the simple, no nonsense, no frills consumer-grade to the over-the-top, extreme performance toy. For the most part people operating these types of products care less about the tool they are using, but the job for which it is being used. My grandmother doesn’t need anything more complicated than her Buick Century to go to church and the grocery store, just like she doesn’t need anything more complicated than the Windows 7 HP desktop she got from Wal-Mart.
Next you have workstations, which are analogous to vans and small busses. People who need vans generally have a bit more work they need their vehicle to do than the car drivers, but essentially vans are just cars scaled up a bit. But still, the products that fall into this category are tools used mainly by normal people whose focuses aren’t on the tools themselves, but what they are trying to accomplish with the tools: getting the kids to basketball practice or getting to work.
Finally we have servers. In terms of the transportation analogy servers range from the city bus all the way up through 747s. Being such a big category, we can break it down even further.
At the low end we have busses and Windows servers. Both are very functionally similar to the consumer-grade products, but on a scale that generally requires operators with some only basic training.
Next we have small aircraft and Linux servers. These tools bear very little resemblance to previous categories making the need for advanced training necessary. While any car driver could probably sit down at the wheel of a bus and figure it out, the same could not be said for a car driver in an airplane. In return for the complication, however, airplanes are much faster and more powerful.
Next are airliners and big iron; somewhat similar to their smaller brethren, but even more complicated and capable. These machines are designed to handle large loads quickly and safely, but only when controlled by extremely well trained and knowledgeable people.
The thing that really differentiates the last category from the first two is that normal people generally don’t own these things. Owners of things in this category are generally companies or governments and the people operating them are generally doing it as a career, not casually. The focus of the operators of this equipment is actually operating the equipment, in contrast to the focus of people operating in other categories. So, yes, Linux/Unix servers and airplanes are more complicated than alternatives. People running them do need to know what they are doing. Thinking that because you can drive a car you should be able to jump in a Gulf Stream is ludicrous. Thinking that people who can drive cars /should/ be able to jump in a Gulf Stream is insane. So, Mr. Gewirtz, please stay away from the servers and let the professionals take care of it. We don’t need you in front of a console just like we don’t need you in a cockpit.