Institute for Advanced Professional Studies

Yankee Group/Sunbelt
2006 Server Reliability Survey Results*

All of the major server operating system platforms have achieved a high degree of reliability, though Unix-based servers still record the least amount of annual downtime. Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 notched the biggest reliability gains over the past 3 years and the Microsoft server platform, along with some custom Linux distributions ranked close behind Unix for the most reliable server operating system platforms.

Those are the results of the latest independent Yankee Group/Sunbelt Software Web-based global survey of nearly 400 IT administrators worldwide. The survey also indicated that heterogeneity is the order of the day: a majority of respondents indicated they had an average of three server operating systems running in their environments.

And, in what can only be described as welcome news for corporate users, all of the major server operating system environments: Linux, Windows, Unix and open source environments exhibited a high degree of reliability -- with a surprising lack of disparity among the platforms.

Businesses reported that on average, their firms experienced fewer than two, Tier 2 reliability-related outages per server, per year and approximately one of the most severe Tier 3 outages per server, per year across all server OS platforms.

The survey also highlighted a number of crucial IT trends and revealed some surprising everyday administrator practices. Foremost among these is that a majority of IT administrators opt to manually apply patches and updates because they are not yet fully comfortable with automated patch rollouts. Perhaps the most surprising patch management statistic is that Unix administrators spend the most time patching their servers overall -- about 58 minutes and about 62 minutes for each server that they patch manually.

Microsoft IT administrators used automated patching far more than their Linux and Unix counterparts -- 32% of Windows 2000 Server IT managers and 38% of Windows Server 2003 managers use automated Group Policy to apply their patches. After Windows, automated patch management was most prevalent in the Novell SuSE environment where 28% of administrators said they use Group Policy mechanisms to automatically update their systems. Red Hat and Unix administrators were least likely to deliver their updates automatically -- only 5% of Red Hat Enterprise Linux managers and 7% of Sun Solaris, HP/UX and IBM AIX managers apply their patches manually. Other survey highlights include:

  • Not surprisingly, the UNIX distributions -- Solaris, AIX and HP UX took top reliability honors. Corporate UNIX users reported experiencing just under 600 minutes of outage per server, per year.

  • Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat Linux with customizations and Novell SuSE Linux all reported roughly equivalent per server, per year outage times of just under 800 minutes. Surprisingly, Red Hat Enterprise Linux standard distribution users reported said they experienced 900 minutes of outage per server, per year.

  • Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 recorded the greatest number of Tier 1 reliability related incidents -- nearly 3 incidents per server, per year for Windows 2000 Server and 2.5 Tier 1 reliability incidents for each Windows Server 2003 system annually. Still, the actual number does not vary substantially from rival platforms.

  • The reliability and patch management of Windows servers has improved dramatically -- about 20% from Windows 2000 Server to Windows Server 2003.

  • Custom SuSE Linux delivers the highest reliability and fewest minutes -- about 430 minutes of outage per server, per year. However, because so few of the respondents -- less than 2% of businesses -- use a customized implementation of Novell SuSE Linux, it is not a statistically valid response. Hence, among mainstream server OS platforms, Unix must still be considered the most reliable server environment.

  • There were several write-ins for Novell's legacy NetWare server OS platform -- seven to be exact -- taking us to task and asking why NetWare was left out of the survey. Overall, we included 11 different server OS configurations that represent the largest share of the current user base as well as the projected server OS environment going forward over the next three to five years. NetWare as a standalone server OS platform is rapidly disappearing. It currently accounts for approximately 3% of the installed base. However, for the record, the respondents still utilizing the legacy NetWare platform had high praise for its reliability and said they suffered little if any downtime.

By Laura DiDio
Research Fellow
Yankee Group
Boston, MA

Posted: March 25, 2006

*Excerpts from a copyrighted newsletter prepared by the staff of WServerNews and distributed by IAPS with their permission. The views expressed in the above excerpts were drawn solely by Sunbelt Software or Yankee Group and do not necessarily reflect the views of IAPS. NB: The entire WServerNews article was set in regular font. All text in bold font on this page was transformed from the original regular font by IAPS to emphasize specific points of interest.

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