The traditional Unix Common Desktop Environment should satisfy long-time Unix users, though most people are likely to find it to be crude and dated. The GNU Network Object Model Environment is a modern desktop environment that strives for simplicity, similar to Mac OS. Gnome has all the features modern users expect in a desktop, though experts may be disappointed by the fact that many decisions are left out of the hands of the user. Experts are more likely to prefer the K. Desktop Environment, which provides a configuration switch for nearly everything that could be done in more than one way. KDE is the most popular desktop environment for Unix.
Windows 2000 offers only the default Windows user interface. The Windows shell is dated in comparison to Gnome or KDE. Though consistency and familiarity are beneficial, Windows lacks user-interface features like multiple window focus models and virtual desktops that are common to almost all Unix graphical environments. The Windows interface does offer several different color schemes and animated mouse cursors.
Windows and Solaris both offer similar technologies to assist physically impaired users in accessing and using the system. Such technologies include adjustable styles in the user interface, screen readers and magnifiers. Solaris comes with better built-in support for software-based assistive technologies, including on-screen keyboards and screen readers than Windows 2000 Server does.
Windows 2000 Server is licensed based on the number of processors and the number of users accessing the system at once. Additional processors or users result in additional fees. Solaris is now being offered free of charge. There are per-processor subscription fees for service and support, which are significantly lower than a Windows 2000 Server license. Standard and premium support packages include telephone support, for which Microsoft charges additional fees. Standard support for Windows 2000 Server products ends on June 30, 2005.
Sun currently provides support for six versions of Solaris, with full support available on three and no end of life date yet announced for two. Major components of Solaris are expected to be released under an open-source license, allowing users to modify the system. Merely viewing Windows source code legally is nearly impossible, and making changes is strictly forbidden.
The clear separation of components of Solaris gives it an inherent security advantage over Windows 2000 Server. Specific features further separate the two operating systems in the field of security. Access control lists in Windows 2000 allow administrators to express sophisticated permissions for access to files, but file permissions cannot express a complete security policy on a Windows server since many Windows APIs are not based on the use of files as an abstraction layer
Solaris supports similar access control lists, which provide for a more complete security policy on a system where nearly all operations are performed through file access. Solaris also supports role-based access controls, which allow for permissions based not only on the user account a process is running under, but also on what task, or role the user is currently performing. Role-based access controls allow the administrator to restrict potential damage from a security breach to the areas to which a given service requires access. For additional security, Solaris containers allow processes to run inside sealed areas of the system, with a network interface being the only way to communicate with the rest of the system. A process running inside a container is no more dangerous than if it were running on a different physical machine connected by a network. When containers are properly used, attacking one service to gain access to another becomes ineffectual.
Virus and worm outbreaks have affected Windows users for years, but self-spreading malware is rare in the Unix world. The SQL Slammer worm of 2003 crashed systems ranging from automatic teller machines to control systems is nuclear power plants. Microsoft likes to pretend that the proliferation of malware is due to the popularity of Windows, not anything having to do with its design. Worms, including the highly disruptive Nimda and Code Red have consistently plagued users of Microsoft's Internet Information Server, which has just over 20% of the web server market. Apache, which has nearly 70% has been relatively free of malware and has never had an outbreak on the scale of Nimda or Code Red. Malware authors may prefer to code for the most popular software, but only do so as long as it is convenient. The inherent security of a platform is the primary factor that determines the likelihood of a damaging malware outbreak. Solaris is inherently so much more secure than Windows that a major outbreak of malware will probably never occur, regardless of any changes in market share.
Windows has a well-deserved reputation for unreliability. Every experienced Windows administrator has seen the infamous blue screen of death that indicates the system has come to a grinding halt. Most Solaris administrators never have to reboot their servers. Windows was designed for single user personal computers; having to restart the computer was never considered a serious problem.
Unix was designed for multiple users. Restarting a system with a large number of users working on a variety of tasks at once is a serious problem, and Solaris goes to great lengths to avoid it. While such trivial things as a web browser update require a full restart on a Windows server, Solaris only requires a reboot when the kernel is upgraded. Rebooting a server that is providing mission-critical services to a business can have a significant financial impact.
Windows 2000 offers only NTFS and the antiquated FAT filesystems for storage. FAT is not worthy of consideration for use on a modern server. It lacks even rudimentary access controls and has nothing to prevent corruption in the event that a filesystem operation is interrupted. NTFS has access controls and journaling to protect against corruption if a filesystem operation is interrupted, however, it is both slow and prone to data loss. UFS with logging on Solaris is fast and reliable. ZFS, introduced in Solaris 10 offers even more reliability with the addition of atomic operations. An atomic operation occurs either completely or not at all, making it impossible for the filesystem to be left in an inconsistent state. ZFS also provides checksumming of all files within the filesystem, allowing corrupted files to be detected and repaired automatically.
With the latest improvements to Solaris, there are even more advantages to this system than ever. According to Michael Singer of "Developer," Solaris 10 is well worth the wait that loyal users of the system, as well as those curious to try another approach, have endured. The past year has been filled with sneak peaks of the new features Sun Systems has been developing, and many revisions have been implemented based on the trial runs and feedback from the widely circulating beta versions, before the official free download release which will be released some time in early 2005. What are the improvements made to Solaris that gives it an even sharper edge for business solutions?
The upgrade includes more than 600 improvements. The so-called "Big Five" additions to Solaris 10 include a partitioning technology (N1 Grid Containers); a diagnostic tool for system administrators (DTrace), Predictive Self Healing, Crypto Infrastructure based on the PKCS#11 standard and ZFS (short for Zettabyte File System), which gets its roots from the classic POSIX-compliant Unix file-system.
Solaris 10 also includes technology from the "government-grade" Trusted Solaris operating system as well as a Linux Application Environment (code-named Project Janus), which allows the OS to run Solaris and native Linux binaries." (Singer)
Additionally, Solaris has improved the software licensing pricing structure to make it more accessible to the public that demands it. Windows 2000 continues to be suboptimal while Solaris continues to improve performance, leaving Windows in the dust.
Solaris is clearly superior to Windows 2000 server, though the two systems are intended for similar uses. Windows 2000 Server is tightly integrated and inflexible, while Solaris is modular and flexible. This modularity also provides greater stability than is possible with Windows. Configuration information on Solaris is stored in simple files that are robust, simple to back up, edit and copy between servers. Windows uses a binary database that is fragile, difficult to back up and nearly impossible to edit or copy between servers. Solaris supports far more powerful hardware than is available with Windows 2000, and offers a choice of architectures. Solaris with a support package is significantly less expensive than Windows 2000, or free without support. Source code is available with Solaris, allowing for modifications, but not Windows 2000. Solaris offers an escape for Windows administrators who are plagued by security flaws and a lack of means to contain the breaches by providing high level security features not available in Windows. Solaris is also a…