Which Operating System Should I Use?


This article was originally written for Iguana 5 and may contain out of date references.

Iguana has only a few dependencies on the operating system on which it runs. For this reason, Iguana can run reliably on a number of operating systems, including:

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Mac OS X

Given these options, which is the best operating system to use?

The answer: It depends on your environment. Several factors should be considered:

  • The overall technical robustness of the operating system’s hardware platform
  • The operating system that your organization is most comfortable with
  • Vulnerability to viruses
  • Whether replacement hardware can be obtained quickly
  • Cost
  • Upgrade issues
  • Hardware and driver compatibility
  • Support

Linux, Windows and Mac OS X are all worthwhile solutions, each for slightly different reasons. If you have a number of people on-site who are familiar with Linux, it is a good choice. Otherwise, Windows is a stable option, provided that you:

  • Have a good anti-virus/firewall strategy in place
  • Implement policies that control what software can be installed on the server machines
  • Use VMware and/or disk imaging to ensure that the servers can be reinstalled periodically

The following pages describe why Iguana is basically operating system independent and describe the pros and cons of each operating system solution in more detail.

Note: To run Iguana, you will also need to use Chameleon. The Chameleon GUI is supported on the following operating systems:

  • Windows XP, Windows 7, 8, 10
  • Windows Server 2003, Server 2012 and above
  • Mac OS X via Parallels Desktop (or equivalent)

System Dependencies [top]

Iguana has very few dependencies on the underlying operating system on which it runs. This is because Iguana is written in C++ as cross-platform software. Everything is built from the ground up: The web interface is custom-designed for Iguana, not a third-party implementation such as IIS or Apache. Third-party components that are incorporated in Iguana, such as luajit, are shipped as part of the product.

Because Iguana is designed to be cross-platform software, quality assurance and regression testing are kept to manageable levels.

Iguana does not use significant quantities of CPU time. The limiting factor in performance is file input/output, which is mostly from the database. For this reason, Iguana can be safely implemented on a virtual machine, such as VMware or Parallels.

For these reasons, Iguana users have been able to run production-critical systems under Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Note: Some of the operating systems in the above list are not officially supported by iNTERFACEWARE.

Linux [top]

Linux is a technically sound and stable choice of operating system. The advantages of Linux include:

  • The core operating system is solid.
  • Innovations such as the ReiserFS file system address file input/output speed, which is Iguana‘s largest performance bottleneck.
  • Many vendors provide Linux-compatible Intel software.
  • Linux is less vulnerable to viruses than Windows-based operating systems are.

The disadvantages of Linux include:

  • Your organization must contain people who have enough Linux expertise to maintain the system. Linux implementations can cause problems for people without extensive experience. In particular, it is easy to set up a Linux system in a non-standard way.
  • Version control management is more difficult: many Linux vendors release many more versions than are released by closed-source alternatives such as Windows or Mac OS X.
  • Hardware upgrades can be difficult, and often require an operating system upgrade.

Windows [top]

Windows is the choice for many organizations because of its wide user base. The advantages of Windows include:

  • Windows is well understood by many people, which makes the operating system very accessible.
  • Because Windows is backed by a large commercial vendor, the number of releases and versions of Windows is smaller than for Linux.
  • The platform is highly standardized. Microsoft has established clear standards stating how Windows Services work.

The disadvantages of Windows include:

  • The platform is vulnerable to viruses. This security threat needs to be appropriately managed
  • Windows file systems do not perform as well as those on Linux and Mac OS X. The difference is not hugely significant; if your organization does not have Linux or Mac OS X experience, any gain in performance will be offset by maintenance problems
  • Windows servers tend to degrade over time. This can be dealt with using virtual machine technology such as VMware and by using disk imaging

Mac OS X [top]

Mac OS X is a secure and stable operating system. It is the world’s most widely-deployed desktop version of a Unix-based operating system, as it is based on FreeBSD. It is not extensively used as a server operating system, so it might be best suited to applications that are not mission-critical.

The advantages of Mac OS X include:

  • There are not many problems with viruses.
  • Apple hardware is of high quality.
  • Because it is produced by a large commercial vendor, Mac OS X is tested using an extensive formal quality assurance process.
  • Installation is simple, as there are no problems with driver software compatibilities – Apple provides everything.
  • The update and patch system is generally very good.

The disadvantages of Mac OS X include:

  • Apple’s primary business focus is on consumer desktops and laptops. They may not deliver the level of technical support and turnaround time for replacement servers that is offered by vendors that are more focused on the server market.
  • The decision to choose Mac OS X over Windows or Linux may encounter organizational resistance.
  • Finding people with Mac OS X expertise may be difficult.

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