The role of operating systems continues to be critical to the overall performance of enterprise information systems globally. In the majority of enterprises today there is a wide variation in the type of operating systems used, as the information needs vary significantly across organizations. The intent of this analysis is to evaluate the Microsoft Windows XP, Windows 7 and Linux operating systems. The architectures, pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages of these operating systems, pricing, and feature analysis is included in this analysis.
All three of these operating systems vary most significantly at the architectural levels, as the design philosophies of the architects Microsoft vary significantly from Linus Torvalds' initial designs in the early 1990s to today (Foley, 36). Both Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7 share a common legacy of kernel-based design that completely changes the dynamics of how applications are created on these platforms relative to Linux (Sliwa, 53).
Comparing the kernel architectures of Windows XP and Windows 7 to Linux shows how the latter evolved from the basis of UNIX operating system design criterion, while the latter is a progression from the Windows operating environment
Figure 1: The Windows XP and Windows 7 Kernel
Source: (Antoniol, et.al)
One of the greatest differences in these operating system is how the User Model and Kernel Mode are differentiated from each other. This has a cascading effect on how applications are managed at the user interface and process management standpoint. Figure 2 shows the Linux kernel.
Figure 2: Linux Kernel
Source: (Antoniol, et.al)
Applications are delivered via the X-Windows windowing technology with Linux, while both Windows XP and Windows 7 rely on a Win32-based Windowing architecture. X-Windows is often handled outside the kernel mode, which has been a significant advantage for Linux in being adopted throughout engineering and scientific applications (Antoniol, 758, 759). X-Windows went through a period of being highly sought after in advanced computer-aided drawing and design applications due to the device independence.
Another significant difference between Windows XP, Windows 7 and Linux are in how each manages device drivers. Starting in the Windows NT architecture and progressing through XP and being fine-tuned in Windows 7, multithreading of Win16-based and Win32-based device drivers as developed. In Windows XP, Microsoft began offering Win64-based device drivers that had the potential to support multithreading for increased performance. Linux also moved to support Win64-based device drivers in the mid- 2000 timeframe in an effort to stay in step with Microsoft's aggressive development of entirely new Graphic Device Interface (GDI) standard (Antoniol, 765, 766). Windows 7 continues to support a dynamic loadable kernel module that in this latest released version of their operating system, supports dynamic extensions of their kernels .
One of the most critical differences between these operating systems is the design approach each has taken in creating a set of Application programmer Interfaces (API). Microsoft has taken the approach of reaching over 17,500 commands and functions that can be called o top of native APIs. This approach is predicated on creating a very rich set of APIs to nurture and foster as rapid development cycles of independent software vendor (ISV) applications (Sliwa, 53). Conversely Linux has taken an approach of layering their architecture and supporting 200 different system calls to the kernel level (Antoniol, 757). In addition, Linux system designers have taken an entirely different approach to creating the API structure of the operating system, by concentrating on 1,742 compact APIs that include the graphic interface-based X-Windows APIs heavily used in the development of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) applications. There are many other differences between the Microsoft XP, Windows 7 and Linux operating system at the architectural level. This comparison has concentrated on the foundational aspects of the kernel architecture. There are also significant differences at the process management,, sequencing of threading applications, physical and I/O memory management and security. These all are factors that are being actively evaluated by Chief Information Officers (CIOs) as they evaluate Linux' role in their enterprises.
Pros and Cons (Advantages and Disadvantages) Comparison
The pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages of Windows XP, Windows 7 and Linux are analyzed in this section. As the previous section discussed the differences of these operating systems at the architectural level, this section compares the advantages and disadvantages from an enterprise-wide deployment standpoint.
Starting with security, Linux has two different models including the legacy standard UNIX model in addition to Access Control Lists. These technologies define users by capacities and privileges first and second by role-based access in later editions (Antoniol, et.al). In the BSD-based versions of Linux, the security levels can also be defined down to the object-by-object level with significantly streamlines programming and development (Kennedy, 46). Linux also has in-depth auditing support and the ability to create an entire activity trail by account while Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7 cannot. There are also security models that can be loaded into Linux kernel architectures and recompiled by administrators to harden or otherwise strengthen the security of this operating system. With both Windows XP and Windows 7, the user or administrator cannot recompile the kernel at any time (Kennedy, 50).
Microsoft takes a completely different approach to defining and implementing security models by relying on Access Control Lists first, and then defining user privileges and member groups within each category and account (Kennedy, 45). In addition, Microsoft is concentrating more on object-based security based on the needs of CIOs to streamline internal development on the Windows XP and Windows 7 platforms. As Microsoft has literally thousands of hours invested in the Windows XP and 7 platforms, their approach to defining protection of processes to the thread level in the Win16, Win32 and Win64 APIs is more focused on agility for enterprises than it is in hardening the process itself. / This is a deliberate decision by Mark Russinovich and the core team of architects at Microsoft planning current and future directions of these operating systems (VARBusiness, 28).
Comparing these three operating systems across the file organization and search, remote access, security and compliance, management and deployment. Starting with file organization and search, Windows XP is the most deficient in that it requires a software upgrade to support desktop search and advanced search federation, including the design of taxonomies. Windows 7 supports all of these features for file organization in the baseline operating system, as does Linux. In terms of remote access, Windows XP is completely featureless on this set of functionalities with Windows 7 supporting VPN Reconnect (critical for enterprise users)( in addition to Direct Access, Mobile Broadband and RemoteApp and Desktop Connections. Linux extensions and the Linux development community has supported these features for well over five years (Antoniol, 755-65).
On the feature set of security and compliance, Windows XP does not support Granular Audit, Domain Name System Security Extensions, or Smartcards. It does support biometrics through 3rd party applications. Windows 7 has support for Granular Audit, Domain Name System Security Extensions and Smartcards, all at the operating system level. Linux again has the lead on these attributes given the depth and breadth of its support through a global developer base.
On the areas of management and deployment, XP only supported unified tracing and user state migration tools out of nearly three dozen features on these two areas. Windows 7 did slightly better by supporting remote access to reliability data, dynamic driver provisioning, volume activities and problem step recording. Linux had these features nearly 18 months before the Windows 7 beta was released (Antoniol, 781). Deployment on XP was virtually non-existent, which was an area that CIOs pushed Microsoft to improve in Windows 7, which they did., Active support for Multicase Stream Transfer, VHD Image Management and Deployment and VHD support are all…