Home > Articles > Operating Systems, Server

  • Print
  • + Share This
From the author of

Server Software Requirements and Costs

This section details some important differences between Linux and Microsoft server software. Benchmarks are not considered here because much has already been published regarding these issues. Security flaw concerns are also not discussed here. Problems in the Linux arena are generally rapidly identified and quickly fixed, which is one of the primary benefits of using software available in source code form. Microsoft offers contractual software support (usually only to Fortune 500 or enterprise-level customers) and has released software fixes in the past for its product offerings (but apparently has not been held legally liable to date for security flaws or other problems related to its products).

One of the most important considerations regarding the use of Linux or Microsoft software is software licensing. This issue is explored in each of the following sections.

Linux Software Requirements

Even the most basic Linux distribution contains a rich assortment and variety of software, both server and client-based. The span of software included, even in diminutive (single CD-ROM) Linux distributions, includes client desktop and server software such as the following:

  • Communications utilities, such as sending or receiving fax transmissions or dial-in

  • Database servers for inventory, accounting, and so on

  • Documentation for system configuration, management, software resources

  • File servers for sharing files in a UNIX, Linux, or Windows-based mixed network

  • Graphical desktop environments for workstation use

  • Internet-related utilities, such as Web browsers, FTP utilities, electronic mail, and so on

  • Multimedia software for graphics development, printing, or presentations

  • Network configuration and network management tools

  • Print servers, resource, and management tools

  • Productivity software, including office suites, calendaring, project management, and so on

  • Remote access software for mobile personnel

  • Security software to enhance and augment company communications in-house

  • Software development tools for developers or in-house custom software development

  • Software management tools for system administrators

  • User management tools for system administrators

  • Web servers for intranet, extranet, or Internet operations

The type of software that is deployed and its intended purpose can greatly affect hardware requirements. For example, basic desktop productivity workstations will have far fewer resource requirements than an application server, development workstation, or Web or database server. What is remarkable is that Linux includes nearly all the software required for nearly any task faced in a small business environment.

Nearly all Linux distributions include thousands of commands, programs, and clients; and more than enough software (sometimes too much software) to provide more than adequate resources for serving applications, files, printers, databases, and Web pages. Much of the software can easily be applied to business-related tasks. To such users, one important aspect of any of the Linux-related software is its license.

Many free programs for Linux are licensed under the GNU General Public License, originally written by Richard M. Stallman. Much of the free software included with a Linux distribution (and in some cases, as the base Debian Linux distribution, all of it) is licensed under the GNU GPL or one of its variants. The GNU GPL license does not mandate royalties or monetary payments for use of associated software, and instead focuses on stated tenets of "freedom," such as the following:

  • Using such licensed software for any purpose.

  • Examining and/or modifying the software's source code.

  • Redistributing copies or modified copies of the software.

  • Releasing modifications to the software.

However, other licenses may apply to various software packages in a Linux distribution, and include many falling under the category of open source software. Some of the (perhaps) better-known licenses are the following:

Apache Software License

Apple Public Source License

Artistic license

BSD license

IBM Public License

Intel Open Source License

MIT license

Mozilla Public License 1.0 (MPL)

Mozilla Public License 1.1 (MPL)

Python Software Foundation License

Qt Public License (QPL)

RealNetworks Public Source License V1.0

Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL)

Sun Public License

Sybase Open Watcom Public License 1.0

University of Illinois/NCSA Open Source License

W3C License

Zope Public License

Although not all these licenses afford the same freedom as the GNU GPL, the software distributed under these licenses may generally be freely used for any purpose without the need for royalties or licensing payments. Careful examination of the documentation for any installed Linux software on a server or workstation can ensure complete compliance and avoid problems.







Designing a Linux system

Creating a Linux server involves the careful choice of software to be installed, designing a flexible and safe partitioning strategy, and crafting effective backup strategies. Choosing the server software will depend on the server's intended use. Although a Linux server may perform many different tasks and offer different services at the same time, most experts agree that single-use machines are best suited in mission-critical applications, with power supply and hard drive storage as hot-swap components. Additional technologies can be employed to link servers in clustering (for parallel computations), fail-over (for auto-rerouting of data), and load-balancing (network workload distribution) configurations. Employing one or more of these features in a server configuration will require specialized hardware and software (clustering capabilities are included in Red Hat, Inc.'s Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, discussed next).

Red Hat Linux Advanced Server is a commercial Linux distribution with a 12- to 18-month release cycle. This cycle is longer than the typical six-month cycle for new versions of Red Hat's consumer Linux distributions. The reason for Advanced Server's longer cycle is to accommodate enterprise-level software developers and provide stability in the corporate computing environment. Red Hat certifies a number of software packages and hardware platforms for Advanced Server from many of the key players in the software industry, such as Oracle, Dell, HP, Veritas, Computer Associates, BEA, SAP, IBM, Legato, and others.

ACME does not have to turn to Advanced Server as a Linux solution. The current consumer-based Red Hat Linux offerings will work fine on a wide range of computer equipment, including the hardware listed in Table 1. However, there are some advantages in choosing Advanced Server:

  • Red Hat's Advanced Server includes software on high-density optical media.

  • Support for clustering technology using redundant server hardware, shared (bus or network) disk storage, power management, and other fail-over mechanisms.

  • Software documentation and manuals are provided

  • Support for 12 categories of help is included with the base purchase; up to an additional 25 categories of support are available at shortened response times with Red Hat's Premium Package (see Table 4).

  • Support includes critical software fixes.

Table 4 lists the various Red Hat Linux distributions and software products available from Red Hat, Inc.

Table 4—Red Hat Linux Software Products, Purpose, and Cost




Red Hat Linux 8.0

Basic operating system and applications on five CD-ROM .iso images free to download; no support


Red Hat Linux 8.0 Personal

Same as previous, but with two printed manuals*, a documentation CD, CD-ROM disks in shrink-wrapped box, a 30-day subscription to Red Hat Network for one system, 30 of days Web-based installation support, and 30 days of phone-based installation support


Red Hat Linux 8.0 Professional

Same as previous, but includes system on CD-ROM and DVD, three additional printed manuals9, a 60-day Red Hat Network subscription, and 60 of days phone, Web-based installation support


Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 2.110

Basic customized operating system and utilities destined as platform for third-party, enterprise-level products (such as IBM's WebSphere, etc.)


(depends on support options)

Red Hat Linux Advanced Workstation

Basic client desktop operating system and utilities designed as a corporate desktop to integrate into a Red Hat Linux Advanced Server network

Unknown; new product

(Q3 2003?)

Stronghold Enterprise Secure Web Server

Customized version of the Apache Web server destined for use in Internet, intranet, and e-commerce settings


(depends on support options)

Red Hat Network Proxy Server

Enables local Intranet connections via a single, secure connection to Red Hat Network in order to conserver bandwidth and provide faster downloads (updating)

available upon request

Red Hat Network Satellite

A customized version of Red Hat, Inc.'s Red Hat Network deployed in-house (on-site)

Available upon request

Red Hat Command Center

System, application, network, and transaction monitoring; report generation, inventory management, automated system event reporting

Unknown; new product

(Q1 2003)









Table 4 details the costs of various Red Hat Products, ranging from its free Linux distribution through more advanced platform operating systems. Note that this table does cover software products from other major business software vendors. The main difference between the free, personal, and professional Red Hat Linux distributions and Red Hat's Advanced Server offering are in release cycles, system tuning, support, and cost. Red Hat's Advanced Server is available free in source code form, but downloadable .iso CD-ROM images are not available.

Red Hat Linux distributions provide nearly all server software required for small business operations. This includes the following major features and software packages:

  • Application serving—The X Window System is the graphical networking protocol used with UNIX and Linux systems. Desktops may be easily provided user space and applications via a server, and all client applications may be stored and launched from the server for display and use on remote desktops. ACME does not have to use such an approach, but this option is available without cost as an alternative for providing user applications.

  • Web server—The Apache Web server is a standard component of most Linux distributions, and is included with Red Hat Linux distributions. Specialized Web operations may benefit through the use of Red Hat's customized Stronghold Server product, a security-hardened and feature-added version of Apache (although this will add to the cost of a server setup).

  • Database operations—Each Red Hat Linux distribution includes two database systems, PostgreSQL and MySQL, that provide performance and features that can fit into either small- or large-scale operations.

  • Electronic mail—Several different mail servers (network-based delivery or sending), mail-filtering clients, and numerous mail clients (for the composing, reading, managing, and sending of mail) are included with Linux.

  • Many network-related server packages—Firewall, gateway, routing, Domain Name Service, network monitoring, and network device management software are included with every Linux distribution.

  • Cross-platform file and print sharing—Red Hat Linux includes software to configure, manage, and set up file sharing for Windows, UNIX, and Mac OS. More than 1,300 different printers are supported and may be set up, configured, managed, and used locally or over a network with all different Red Hat Linux distributions. Printer account management and tracking are supported.

  • Remote access software—Red Hat Linux provides all the software required to easily configure and manage remote access via dial-in telephone or a network interface. Encryption is supported, and secure remote access server and client software are included.

ACME could easily implement its own Red Hat Linux-based network by using the freely available Red Hat Linux 8.0 distribution. All server software required for nearly all basic network and LAN operations are included. However, a wiser choice, especially during the period of an early migration or adoption, would be to purchase a high-end support version of Red Hat Linux Advanced Server. This would provide relief from in-house resources (system administration employees), and most likely ensure greater uptime in business server operations.

ACME's base cost for outfitting two servers using Red Hat Linux Advanced server will range from $1,598 to $5,198. These figures do not include costs for construction, or for equipment such as the following:

Premise wiring

Patch cables

Patch panels

Network jacks or faceplates

Network interface cards (NICs)

Cabinets, equipment racks

Routers, switches, or hubs

Windows 2000 Software Requirements

The choice of Windows 2000 server products will be dictated not only by the product's client and performance capabilities, but also by the type and range of included software.

For example, the Small Business Server product offering provides a variety of core essential services, such as file, print, and application servers; electronic messaging (mail and fax); database facilities; Internet access utilities; and basic Web services. Management may be accomplished via a Web-based console and various automatic software setup programs (a.k.a. wizards). However, this product (with support for 25 users) retails for $2,800.00 and (according to Microsoft) is limited to serving 50 workstations, a single domain, and a single-server computer.

Along with an appropriate server product, ACME must also decide on the office productivity software and other software components to provide and support on its network. Microsoft has a suite of business software products, which span many different categories, such as the following:

Calendar Software


Desktop Manager

Desktop Publishing


Messaging and Collaboration

Mid-Size Business Tools


Presentation Tools

Project Management

Small Business Tools

Solution Suites


Team Management Software

Training and Resources

Word Processing

ACME must decide on the software needs of its user base and must conduct an accurate assessment or budget projection of software needs prior to investing in a proprietary solution. Software and licensing expenses could rapidly spiral out of control or starve ACME's user base of proper tools and resources due to lack of funds.



Designing a Win2K System

Any design of a Windows-based server must include consideration of the number and needs of the intended client base of users. The reason for this is that in most cases, although a company may purchase and install a Windows server product, the server will not be usable (accessible) unless additional licenses (known as client access licenses) are purchased and enabled. These costs will be in addition to the server software costs listed in Table 5 if the number of users exceeds the initial client access license purchase. Another consideration is that this licensing model can add additional legal liabilities and administrative responsibilities if ACME deploys Microsoft server software. This is unlike the use of a Linux server, which may be freely accessed (depending on how the system is configured) immediately after installation and configuration by any remote host, operating system, or any number of users.

Licensing issues can be initially confusing, and (over a longer term) potentially problematic and expensive. For example, Microsoft changed its licensing system in 2002, implementing an "annuity-based model" known as Software Assurance. Many larger computing sites were switched to two- to three-year contracts with annual payments for future upgrades. Some critics posed that the new licensing schema raised costs considerably. Microsoft posits that the new licensing represents a simplification of previous licensing arrangements.

According to Microsoft, the first step of purchasing its software is to determine the best license for one's needs (see below). The next step is to make a decision on how to purchase (pay for) software, which can be "perpetual or subscription." The last step is then to decide where to pay for the software. Microsoft now categorizes its individual software products according to a "product pool, product, and edition," with three different product pools: Applications, Systems, and Servers. For example, Windows 2000 Advanced Server is in the Servers product pool, is a Windows 2000 product, and is the Advanced Server edition.

Purchasing options for ACME could fall into the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) level if ACME sold platforms and wanted to pre-install Microsoft products. However, for purposes of this narrative, ACME is considered to have a base of 500 users. As such, ACME could purchase Microsoft products at full retail, but this approach would be too expensive. Microsoft's "Volume Licensing for Organizations," consisting of four applicable licensing schemes, might be a more attractive option:

  • Open License 6.0, available with the purchase of five licenses and offering an "Open Business" program and "Open Volume" program. Under each of these subprograms there are minimum order requirements, and a "point" system is used as a gauge for purchase discounts. An upfront payment is required.

  • Select License 6.0 for 250 or more desktops, which will incur forecasting of software needs over a future three-year period, with annualized payments.

  • Enterprise Agreement 6.0 for 250 or more desktops running Microsoft's "Platform Enterprise Products," such as Office Professional; this scheme also incurs a three-year contract with annualized payments.

  • Enterprise Subscription Agreement 6.0, also for sites with 250 or more desktops, with licensing based on a subscription basis, but requiring annualized payments.

A fifth licensing scheme, the Academic Volume Licensing, is for academic institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, or business schools, and does not apply to ACME's situation.

According to Microsoft, the idea of offering multiple, tiered, and point-based licensing schemes is to help clients save money. However, ACME had best invest the time, effort, and expense in fully exploring the pros and cons of all the various schemes before committing funds for software (keeping in mind that the software is not purchased, but licensed for use). This decision can become even more complex if ACME hosts (like many businesses) a mixed computing environment running several different operating systems. A software-use inventory or forecast (part of Red Hat's migration and deployment strategy) is a must-do item in such cases.

Besides client-access licensing, other schemes commonly used by the proprietary software industry are per-seat licensing, per-server licensing, and per-processor licensing. More important, however, is the fact that many companies or governmental entities unintentionally (to their detriment) ignore one risk-management aspect of adoption proprietary software and associated licensing: the need to track licenses in use to avoid an outside software audit. Expensive legal liabilities can arise, even if only one disgruntled ex-employee chooses to file an anonymous complaint, and even if no violations exist or are found!






Table 5—Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server Costs




Windows 2000 Server

Provides directory, Web, application, network, file and print services

$999 with five client access licenses (CALs); $1199 with 10 CALs; $1799 with 25 CALs; additional licenses available at $199 per five or $799 for 20

Windows 2000 Advanced Server

Same as above, but adds support for additional CPUs and RAM, and clustering

$3,999 with 25 CALs






Each server product listed in Table 5 will provide basic network server operations. However, ACME must purchase additional CALs in order to provide access to the servers for its employees; and must purchase base operating systems for its desktops, workstations or laptops, along with office productivity or other business applications.

Microsoft also offers six different versions of its Microsoft Open License Packs, ranging in price from $2399 to $2831—prices will vary from third-party sources.


Pursuing a Microsoft solution to outfit two servers will obviously cost more than adopting a Red Hat solution. Much of the expense in a Microsoft solution, just based on a server and server access, will be in the area of CALs. Red Hat Linux Advanced Server has no such restriction on access, and additionally provides an entire suite of business productivity software (such as word processing, electronic mail, spreadsheets, graphic design tools, calendaring, and Personal Information Managers, or PIMs), along with a rich assortment of server and client-related software.

Comparing Costs

No matter which avenue ACME chooses to navigate (open source or proprietary), consideration must be given to support and client desktop standards. (These issues are discussed in the section on system administration costs and support options.) Based on Microsoft's retail pricing, the cost to outfit two servers and provide enough CALs for ACME could be as much as $20,176 for a single Windows 2000 Server (but would most likely be cheaper, depending on the negotiated licensing scheme). As previously mentioned, the cost for outfitting two servers using Red Hat Linux Advanced server will range from $1,598 to $5,198.


Both Microsoft and Red Hat require a separate purchase of their advanced software for each server. Again, ACME could choose any other Red Hat operating system product and install multiple copies without problems, but would need to pursue additional support options, which only pertain to a single machine.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account