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Windows NT vs. Unix . COSC513 Operating Systems 6/3/2000 Tao Peng. Unix. Unix was originated at Bell Labs in 1969 OS of choice for science, engineering, research, and higher education

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Windows nt vs unix
Windows NT vs. Unix

COSC513 Operating Systems


Tao Peng


  • Unix was originated at Bell Labs in 1969

  • OS of choice for science, engineering, research, and higher education

  • A family of operating systems which includes AIX, BSDI, Digital Unix, FreeBSD, HP-UX, IRIX, Linux, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Pyramid, SCO, Solaris, SunOS, etc.

  • Is a mature, technically superior group of operating systems with a proven record for performance, reliability, and security in a server environment.


  • The de facto choice for delivering services that are not file and print-related

  • Its strong preemptive multitasking and protected memory support make it well-architectured as an application server

  • Standard for building large-scale application servers such as Internet services, enterprise messaging systems, database management systems and transaction processing systems for a simple reason: Unix solutions are capable of handling the load.

  • Success was confined to expensive high-margin hardware

Windows nt
Windows NT

  • Introduced in 1997, proprietary product.

  • Actually two products: Microsoft NT Workstation and Microsoft NT Server.

  • The Workstation: is designed for users, especially business users, who need faster performance and a system a little more fail-safe than Windows 95 and Windows 98).

  • The NT Server: The Server is designed for business machines that need to provide services for LAN-attached computers. Is probably the second most installed network server operating system.

Ms claimed nt benefits
MS claimed NT benefits

  • NOS of all trades--a single OS to support all client/server solutions—from file and print services to network infrastructure and management to application services.

  • GUI-style management--Its slew of GUI-based management applications simplify server administration—reducing support costs.

  • Runs all the popular software in a familiar environment

  • MS promotion: with ever-reducing prices of PC processing power, NT will eventually be able to match the performance of high-priced Unix RISC workstations and servers at a much lower price

Nt will not take over unix
NT will not take over Unix

NT and Unix each has its specific strengths and weaknesses. Technically, Unix is superior to NT.

Unix strengths
Unix Strengths

  • Scalability:used on various hardware platforms, from workstations to supercomputers

  • Management: managed at a very low level through a character-based interface, making it easy to access all administrative functions remotely. X windows is network-enabled, letting any GUI utilities be accessed remotely.

  • Large Scale directory services: Lacks a standard directory service, but products like NIS and DCE directory services integrate closely with the OS and offer Unix-specific schemas by default

Unix weaknesses
Unix Weaknesses

  • Not standardized: incompatible versions of Unix--applications written to one environment must be ported to another. Most portable Unix applications are not multithreaded

  • Cost--capital: scalable, high performance RISC solutions are very expensive compared to PC hardware

  • cost--management: complex OS requires experienced administrators. Most versions have simplified installation processes and each vendor offers different management utilities

Nt strengths
NT strengths

  • Low cost: primary market for NT is the PC platform

  • Standardization: controlled by a single vendor--all versions of NT share the same APIs and system calls; most NT applications are multithreaded

  • Multiplatform support: available on multiple platforms(x86 and Alpha); standardized APIs mean that porting to another NT version means a simple recompilation

  • Strong ISV support: software vendors strongly support NT, resulting in a large software library

  • Cost--administration: driven by relatively easy-to-use GUI utilities

  • Client/Sever: offers both a NOS and application server solution out of box

Nt weaknesses
NT weaknesses

  • Scalability: tied to PC platform. Available for Digital Alpha, but most applications focus on the dominant PC market. Scalability is largely driven by the Intel architecture

  • Scripting: lack of solid scripting utilities and character-based applications

  • Remote management: managing an NT server remotely requires specialized GUI utilities. Severely restricted functionality, if limited to a character-based interface

  • Directory services: Limited to NT domains, which don’t tie into non-NT networking

Functionality 1

Multi-user aspect

  • Once a user is logged on to the NT network, all he/she can do is access files and printers, the NT user can only run special applications that have been written in two pieces, i.e. client/server applications

  • When a user logs into a Unix server, he/she can then run any applications (provided being authorized), thus taking the processing load off his/her workstation. This also includes graphics-based applications since X-server software is standard issue on all Unix operating systems.

Functionality 2

Email Programs

  • With NT, users have to buy a separate software package in order to set up an email server

  • Unix comes with built in Sendmail program

    Scripting Languages

  • Unix is equipped with scripting languages (Bourne Shell, Korn Shell, C Shell, etc) and a cron facility for scheduling jobs to run at fixed intervals

  • NT only has limited cmd.exe scripting environment

System management 1
System Management(1)

Administration of the Sever

  • Users can run any Unix application and even manage the Unix server from any of the following clients:

    Any of a variety of character mode terminals, most typically ANSI or VT100 series

    Any PC with an operating system that includes a Telnet client

    Any X terminal

    Any PC running X server software

    Any workstation running any version of Unix that supports X11R6, including anything from an UltraSPARC running Solaris to a 386 PC running FreeBSD

  • Users can not manage an NT server from the same

    Software to manage NT server will only work with a MS OS

    capable of understanding them

System management 2
System Management(2)


  • Unix does not require a GUI to function. NT does. And graphics require incredible amounts of disk space and memory

  • With Unix, you can run GUI tools over the network-enabled X Window System, and now through Java versions of system control tools

System management 3
System Management(3)

Configuration Changes

  • Any Unix with loadable module support is by nature more appropriate for a server environment because almost all configuration changes do not require system restarts.

  • Even insignificant changes to a Windows NT configuration require a shutdown and reboot in order to make the changes take effect. e.g. changing the IP address of your default gateway or changing the type of modem you use for a dial-up PPP connection. None of these limitations exist in Unix.

Directory structure unix
Directory Structure--Unix

organized standard set of directories

  • / root directory

  • /dev direct access to devices

  • /bin system executable files

  • /sbin system administration executable files

  • /lib some shared libraries

  • /usr/bin standard executables not needed at boot

  • /usr/sbin system administration executables not needed at boot

  • /usr/lib shared library files

  • /usr/include shared header files

  • /usr/local miscellaneous programs you install

  • /usr/X11R6 the starting point for the X directory tree

  • /etc configuration files

Directory structure nt
Directory Structure--NT

Having to maintain compatibility with its roots in DOS and Windows 3.1

  • \ boot files, some boot configuration files

  • C:\temp temporary installation files

  • C:\winnt NT system files, boot and program configuration files, user configuration files and access control, commonly used applet programs

  • C:\winnt\system NT system files, driver files, shared libraries, configuration files

  • C:\winnt\system32 system files, shared libraries, program files, configuration files

  • C:\winnt\system32\drivers more drivers

  • C:\winnt\system32\drivers\etc more configuration files

Future of contention
Future of Contention

  • Successful marketing can often distract customers from considering their need for functionality.NT is often chosen for budget reasons in small-to-medium-scale application server environments since many customers are not willing to pay for the more expensive hardware required by most commercial flavors of Unix.

  • Unix is increasing in popularity, due to its economy, scalability, stability, technical superiority and, in some cases, freely available open source. This presents a direct threat to NT market penetration in the enterprise-server space.

  • Environments where performance or scalability is the primary concern will most likely continue to support Unix.