I should begin by saying that I have always run Linux servers because (1) I’m just a tinkerer, and (2) I’m fairly poor. And I’m still crazy about Linux – but I’m a realist and I recognize it’s limitations. Suffice it to say, I was extremely surprised by how easy it was to configure IIS and Exchange. Furthermore, it’s all run very reliably – and for some time now – on my old Pentium 4, Dell Optilplex 620. Most of my Linux buddies view MS servers as, well, inferior to Linux from a number of standpoints. I had never even tinkered with a Windows server and presumed that my friends were correct. Recently, I was offered a job working on a Microsoft server and had to pass because of my inexperience – and I’m broke! Anyway, now, I think that a lot of the opinions I had listened to regarding what Microsoft offers were more on the order of socio-politcial rants which ignored certain realities. I’ve been extremely impressed with Microsoft’s products and I think that a lot of people don’t understand the feature-rich nature of what they offer. Obviously, it’s not free. But it’s awfully damned nice and, specifically, there’s nothing available in the open-source community that even approximates Microsoft’s “groupware” setup for design and support. Zimbra, from what I’ve read, is nice. But could it possibly go toe-to-toe with Microsoft’s active directory, etc.? I can’t believe it.
Is a Micrsoft setup pricey? Compared to Linux, of course – in the short term. But for a business or organization that depends upon a reliable and robust system to keep things running and to pay the bills…well, I could envision that choosing a Microsoft server setup could be the more economical way to go over the long haul. As the old saying goes, you “get what you pay for” and, conversely, you generally don’t get what you don’t pay for. If you’re running a for-profit enterprise in Poughkeepsie would you want to trust your entire operation to a comparitively unsupported, open-source setup like Zimbra? If the system goes down how many people will you be able to pull in, quickly, who can troubleshoot your problems? And how much would it cost to get the right people – if you find them? In short, Microsoft is dominant in this market because they’ve been doing it for decades and their system is highy developed, and, a standard. It’s not free, but it’s largely free of bugs and glitches and when there is a problem there’s an abundance of support from Micrsoft and an abundance of qualified Microsoft IT folks. This is a market where a standard business model will always produce a significantly higher quality product than the open-source model. That’s just the way it is. And again, I can foresee circumstances where a business or organization would save money, over time, by paying for something up front that boasts the type of world-class development and support offered by Microsoft.
Microsoft’s groupware, generally, has no real peer in the open-source world and I think it’s highly doubtful that the open-source community can ever catch up. At the very least, open-source has an enormous up-hill battle in this niche. And, given their comparitively paltry resources, the chances that they’ll ever catch up are slim to none.
With IIS, by the way, you can install the vast majority of popular LAMP software packages – plus, you’ve got .ASP functionality as well. For instance, I’ve enabled php and installed mysql on Server 2003 to run WordPress. And it’s run famously. If I wanted to take DotNetNuke for a spin, it would run on my server.