Not so long I was tasked with setting up a web server for a new project. The list of requirements was simple: it needed to run PHP. I was told the rest of the details were up to me. The hardware was already in place too: a spare Dell Power Edge server that got purchased about a year, and never actually used for anything. So the job was easy – rack the beast up, install OS, update, upgrade, deploy the new app and then test it.
Since the OS choice was left to me, I went with the no-brainer option: Ubuntu. Why? Because I’m familiar with it. I know a lot of it’s quirks, I have installed it on many a server, an I also run it on my work desktop. Since I would be maintaining that machine, I figured I might as well choose an OS that I was familiar with. Plus it would feel at home in the rack that already contained two other Ubuntu rigs – one of which was a Clonezilla server.
Setting it all up took me no time. Installation was a breeze – I opted for a very minimalistic set of packages, applied the usual security tweaks, I loaded up the new PHP page and made sure it was working. Once all was said and done, I shot a request to networking team to give the new server their blessing, and give it a routable IP and inbound internet access. They took one look at my specs and said “No, Ubuntu is verboten!”
Anything that is going to be touching the internet, I was told, had to run FreeBSD.
“Since when?” I asked incredulously.
It turns out that the rule has been in effect ever since the entire networking team have had intercourse with my mom last night. Or at least that’s what I gathered from their rather dense technical explanation. Thanks a lot mom!
So I was about to get into a nasty spat with some networking guy over this, since I really did not feel like scrapping all the work and starting over. Especially since I had no experience maintaining FreeBSD. But… Well, this gave me an excuse to actually install and mess around with a new OS. In the past I have worked on various platforms: Debian, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Solaris… Never on BSD though. So I was somewhat curious.
The reasoning behind the FreeBSD rule was security, and I guess I couldn’t really argue with that either. It did have a reputation for being robust, stable and secure. Of course, I could make a big fuss, yell and scream like a baby but that did not seem like a productive use of my time. You see, I have this nasty habit of being logical when faced with adversity.
So I ended up installing FreeBSD and learning quite a bit about it in the process. When done, I was actually grateful they have pushed me into it, because I quite liked it. Is the server more secure because of it? I don’t know. For sure, it’s a smaller target considering Ubuntu’s popularity. Then again, I don’t know it as well, so chances are I might make bad mistakes during maintenance. So I guess it works out just about the same.
Here is my Friday question for you: what is your favorite server OS and why? Are you a BSD fan? Do you like Debian based systems? Unix guy? Do you run Windows? Here is a quick poll:
I would love to hear your reasoning in the comments. Do you think my colleges were right in pushing for FreeBSD, or do you think it wouldn’t matter in the long run?
Let me know in the comments.