Networking's greatest debates in Software

Classic debates include Open source vs. commercial software, Software-as-a-service vs. packaged applications,and Novell NetWare vs. Microsoft networking

Windows vs. Unix

This began as Bambi vs. Godzilla, and darn it if Bambi didn't dig in her hooves and send the big lizard to the gates of the bone yard. A young Bill Gates was having his mug shot snapped following a late 1970s traffic arrest in Albuquerque, N.M., while Unix was laying down its foundation and weaving itself into network projects including one later called the Internet.

By the 1980s, commercial versions of Unix servers and workstations were popping up including a Unix variant for 16-bit microcomputers called Xenix developed by none other than Microsoft. In 1985, Microsoft abandoned Xenix for its OS/2 project with IBM (see Windows vs. OS/2) and later dumped that partner to concentrate on Bambi, a.k.a Windows NT and the Windows desktop operating system.

Microsoft charged into the enterprise IT market like a clumsy kid running with scissors. The industry snickered at the thought of Unix's entrenched position being eroded by Microsoft. Windows went through its growing pains, but with the advent of the Win32 API everything began to change. The Wintel marriage was the turning point and the combination of Office and Windows on the PC cemented Microsoft's dominance on the desktop. In 2005, Windows Server revenue of US$17.7 billion for the first time eclipsed the revenue generated by Unix (US$17.5 billion).

Critics scoff that Microsoft's advantage is marketing and monopoly (see Microsoft vs. U.S. Justice Department) and not technical or innovative prowess.

Today, things have come full circle. Windows is the leading operating system and Unix is being clipped by one of its own derivatives, Linux, which in turn has put Microsoft into the Godzilla role. -John Fontana

Java vs. .Net

This isn't an argument about which one is better, but a choice between which one is better for specific projects as both have emerged as de-facto standards for development efforts around e-business applications.

There is a lot of overlap in the capabilities of these development tools and that is the precise intersection where developers will raise their swords in religious wars. Generally, however, Microsoft's .Net is more popular in rapid-application-development environments and Java finds its way into large scale

While you might stumble across a Java devotee and a .Net fanatic blowing smoke on some late night discussion list, most are smart enough to know the right tool once they have scoped their project (and played a quick game of World of Warcraft while resting on the decision). -John Fontana

Lotus Notes vs. Microsoft Exchange

This one can back up to Lotus cc:Mail vs. Microsoft Mail, two early e-mail systems finding their way in a new world called LAN-based communications. While cc:Mail had a devout and passionate following, which formed an angry mob at their annual user conference when the death of the product was announced, the real arguments didn't start until Notes and Exchange emerged from the ashes.

Eric Arnum, who was the Ernie Pyle of the early Notes/Exchange wars with his now-defunct Electronic Mail and Messaging and Messaging Online newsletters, tabulated seat counts from the trenches for a captivated audience. Installed base numbers and arguments over who had the best implementations of the latest Internet protocols have now disappeared into real-time communications bundles where Notes and Exchange are but a piece of a larger whole in their respective platforms.

Still today, Notes users remain the most passionate, clubbing IBM back into line each time Notes wavers from the center. Exchange, once anointed the leader of Microsoft's unified communications caravan, now is just one part of it. But this is an argument with two winners. Both platforms deliver rich revenue streams for their respective companies that would make small countries blush. -John Fontana

Read Networking's greatest debates in Security
Read Newtorking's greatest debates in the Data Center
Read Networking's greatest debates in Management
Read Networking's greatest debates in LANs and WANs

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Staff Writers

Network World

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