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Web Performance Tuning by Patrick Killelea

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Unix Versus NT as the Web Server OS

All of this is not to say there is no competition for Unix as a web server platform. It is simple to set up a web server on any Windows or Macintosh machine and get reasonable performance, as long as the load is light. But for heavy loads, the only competitor to Unix for a web server platform is Windows NT. The creators of NT applied many of Unix’s features, such as the concepts of a kernel, user processes, and preemptive multitasking, to the design of NT. Let’s take a look at what each OS has to offer.

NT Pros and Cons

NT has the traditional Microsoft advantages of close integration with other Microsoft products, a consistent look and feel, and GUI rather than command line administration for those who don’t like to type commands and don’t want or need a fine level of control. NT has the ability to run some legacy Windows applications. NT can run on cheap commodity PC hardware, but so can many versions of Unix.

NT does not have especially good performance or scalability for web serving. See the article “The Best OS for Web Serving: Unix or NT?” by Barry Nance (Byte Magazine, March 1998) for one experiment confirming this. More important, NT is very unstable compared to Unix, frequently crashing or requiring reboots, which is a serious drawback to using it for important sites. NT comes with no remote administration and no multiuser mode.

Running a high-performance web site on PC hardware is also difficult. Scalability is limited by the PC’s legacy ...

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