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is linux stable/reliable enough ?

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Valued Contributor

is linux stable/reliable enough ?

Dear Experts

is linux as stable/secure/reliable as HP-UX/IBM-AIX/Sun SOLARIS/SGI IRIX ?


Stuart Browne
Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

This is going to be one of those questions where everybody has a different view.

In some ways, the big-boys have it easy. They only develop for 1-2 platforms (HP-UX is only on PARISC and IA64, AIX is only on MIPS and Power, Solaris is only on SPARC (and i386 if you want to dredge up history), IRIX is only on MIPS). They also have dedicated programmers sitting there doing nothing but their Unix.

Linux however is developed a very dedicated group of volunteers, with the help of some corporate sponsorship (HP, Dell, IBM, SuSE, Redhat, Novell, etc. etc.).

The very in-house-ness, coupled with the sheer age of the Big Boys is what helps them be so stable and reliable.

Linux is still a snot-nosed little kid compared.

But this little kid has some serious game.

Security wise, it has most of the features on offer from the Big Boys, as well as a few new ones (SELinux) of which allow for extremely fine control of resources (including file system, sockets, pipes, etc.). This can make it a very tight ship if you spend the time to configure and tailor it all. There still isn't any simple and 'neat' way to do all of that.. Yet..

Reliability wise, for everything I do with it, it's more than reliable enough! Most of the servers I run have 293 days uptime (that's simply because they're 294 days old). And these things are on the front-line, getting clobbered by Internet users!

Do they have the ability to outweigh a mission-critical back-end server? Well, possibly not quite yet. For almost anything else? Yeah, they're reliable enough.

But it really does depend on your update policy, and on which distribution you use.
One long-haired git at your service...
Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

I'm working on products based on RHEL 3.0 and RHEL 4.0 Enterprise Linux. I've seen very good reliability on U2 U5 and U6 versions of 3.0ES. Critical telecoms application have been running on certain nodes (clustered) for more than a year without any interaction.

Goes without saying that for mission critical applications you should always consider a failover/backup node - even with hp-ux and other unixs.

It works for me (tm)
Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

Do not know if i could be considered as an "expert", as i am still learning every day, and have been working with various OS/architecture for more or less 25 years.

In the "Unix" world I would have to answer Yes , some distribution of the Linux kernel are as stable/secure/reliable as HP-UX/Sun Solaris/SGI IRIX, i am thinking of RedHat Gnu/Linux distributions here (or distribution based on redhat like "Centos"),Suse is probably also in this category, But I have not used this for a long while.

And as mention by Stuard Browne SELinux make this very solid ..but still a little hard to setup

I found that most gnu/linux I have installed worked with have performed well and have been
reliable/stable easy to maintain, update, migrate and monitor.

But if pushed to make a choise on OS I would go OpenVMS !, but this is not "UNIX".

Jean-Pierre Huc
Smile I will feel the difference
Steven E. Protter
Exalted Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?


As stable as HP-UX. No.

It can do more things than HP-UX because more apps run on it. Used carefully it can be as stable as needed for the Enterprise.

The quality assurance of the various distributions need work.

Given a choice I still like to recommend HP-UX. But money often dictates Linux and its good enough for many uses.

Steven E Protter
Owner of ISN Corporation
Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

The OS is pretty close, but the PC hardware you normally run Linux on is really not up to the standard of UNIX hardware from the big vendors. However, you can buy a whole lot of Proliants for the price of one HP9000.

I've also noticed that the Linux distributions certified by big software vendors like Oracle and IBM sometimes have unacceptably poor quality control.

My recent experience has been that availability is more often limited by the applications you host than by the OS and hardware. Hardware and operating systems keep getting better, but somehow applications keep getting worse....
Court Campbell
Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

Yes Linux is stable/reliable enough. The real question is, "is the hardware stable/reliable enough?" The other O/S's you mentioned, except for Solaris, run for the most part on proprietary hardware. When you have a well defined set of hardware to run on you usually have less trouble. The engineers and developers can dedicate time to developing for a well defined set of hardware. Where as with Linux you can run on multiple platforms and use any number of hardware configs. This can cause issues at times.
"The difference between me and you? I will read the man page." and "Respect the hat." and "You could just do a search on ITRC, you don't need to start a thread on a topic that's been answered 100 times already." Oh, and "What. no points???"
Valued Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

thanks for super/nice comments/views/explanations.

I'll welcome more
points assignment will be on MONDAY ;)

Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?


Depending on the flavour of Linux you plan to install, the answer may vary. Because we have so many flavours that run on so many different platform, it is even more difficult to answer.

But REDHAT and SUSE have been offering very stable Linux versions for the Enterprise. Redhat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server is a robust linux solution that is available for IBM and well as HP platforms.

The fear of not having proper drivers etc is quasi-inexistant.

In such cases, you must not consider Linux as being inferior to the major OSes that you have mentioned above.

Kind regards
No person was ever honoured for what he received. Honour has been the reward for what he gave (clavin coolidge)
dirk dierickx
Honored Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

From most of the replies you'll find that Linux is considered stable.

Now there are 2 big hurdles you need to think about:

- is your HW good enough? those Unix boxes with most of the time are pretty well build. while most intel boxes are built to be as cheap as possible (certain brands come to mind).
the reasoning here is to have many cheap boxes and thus provide high availability that way. this strategy does not work for every app.

- is the _software_ good enough? really important! if you're going to use commercial software not included in your distro be sure to check out how stable that software is on Linux. Too many times they release sloppy unix-to-linux ports that crash all the time. sure the OS keeps running, but the application is down all the time.

This last issue is important! mostly when you read in the press that some linux migration didn't work out and they are dissing linux 90% of the time it was the application running on it that was causing the problems.
Van den Broeck Tijl
Valued Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

As Court Campbell said, usually with these "big boy" OS's there is a very limited hardware list to support while linux tries to support a variety of HW platforms. But if you feel endangered of sloppy/cheap hardware you can always step up your hardware a notch (Linux on Integrity/PA-RISC and even zSeries), but many people do not consider this option as cheap boxes in a cluster are in most cases equally viable (perhaps even more interesting in eliminating SPOF's).

I think in stability Linux has a major plus in it's being "open" and errors are traceable for everyone. We came across a nasty SCSI controller bug running Linux on a PA-RISC. In HP-UX it was hushed away, but Linux spewed the syslog about SCSI speed falling back. Appeared to be a buggy SCSI controller firmware. All fine, but why didn't the HP-UX driver complain about this? You can't solve the problem if you don't even know it even exists. (We double checked it on another PA-RISC, same firmware and such).

Sure, there might be requirements which can't be made, but then you're probably looking way up in costs (and likely out of the Unix-world in general).
John Collier
Esteemed Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

Based on the wide variety of responses you have above, I probably shouldn't chime in here. It will probably sound like a repeat. Of course, that hasn't stopped me before!

I think you have way too many variables to be able to answer a question like this.

What's it for?
How important is it?
What will you do with it?
What expectations do you have?
What needs are you trying to fill?

On a personal level, it has been invaluable in my house as router/firewall/proxy. It runs on hardware that would otherwise be considered a doorstop or boat anchor to most and it runs constantly without fail. Good enough? By all means, YES.

As a desktop in our personal environment, it has even converted my wife (although she will never admit it out loud!) to the point where she would rather use it than her brand new notebook computer with the latest Micro$oft offering. She said as much to me just last night. Good enough for her? Again, YES.

My daughter wants her new computer to be Linux. She has watched both her mother and I using it and has decided that she doesn't really care that much about the old PC games she has. She would rather have something she knows will work. The experiment is still in play, but..... Good enough for her... TBA.

The company I get a paycheck from uses it as their front-line web interface for customer sales. It is not considered general knowledge, but a majority of the money that comes into the company comes through some form of Linux or another. Good enough for their purpose? Must be or they would have changed it! They surly have the money to do so if they wish.

There is a very large and well known search engine out there on the 'Net that, at one time, boasted about their primary in-house servers for their web crawlers and databases being run on Linux clusters in various parts of the world. I have not been back to their company site for quite some time to see if they still brag of this or not, but it made a heck of an impression on me when I read it and I will never forget it. It was one of the things that pushed me to learn more about Linux in general. Good enough for them? Apparently it was (and hopefully still is).

The issue of hardware reliability has been brought up. Valid argument, but I think we are all mature and intelligent enough to know that we pretty much get what we pay for. If we go for bargain basement hardware, we will get bargain basement reliability. Of course, we can get a LOT of hardware for a fairly small price. This drives up the reliability/stability of the clustered OS environment even if the hardware is failing more often.

More money for better hardware = more stability/reliability for both. No surprise there.

Software is always an issue for any OS. Do your homework for Linux as you would with any other and you should get similar results.

How does it compare to the 'Major Players' on the 'Heavy Metal'?

Personally, I would put many of the Corporate Linux versions up against several of the Heavy Hitting Unix distros. Of course, I would have taken the time to tailor the kernel and tune the Linux cluster prior to putting them up against each other. Surprised? Shouldn't be. As it was said earlier, Linux is by default trying to be nice to many different types of hardware. If you don't plan on having it on many different types of hardware, slim it down and personalize it. That's what it's for.

Many of the people from the UX side of this forum will argue with me on this. Clay (who has publicly bragged about having at least one server up for literally YEARS), Steven, Pete, and I'm sure many more, will all bring up valid arguments about how their UX is stronger and more reliable. Of course, it has already been mentioned that they have specific hardware and a more controlled environment to develop for. They don't need the flexibility because their environment is fairly static. Of course, it is also a closed source corporate environment. Hmmm...

However, it is the redwood that snaps in the strong winds and the willow that continues to survive and thrive. Linux is our willow. If you see something that doesn't stack up to the Big Boys, then send that issue to the community. They have a sense of pride (and arrogance in some instances) and they will usually step up the plate in a much quicker time frame.

So, is Linux as stable/secure/reliable as [insert OS here}? Is it good enough?

Again, for who? For what? According to whom?

For some of us, the answer is a resounding YES. For others....

Of course, that is just my $.02
Your mileage may vary...
"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Stephen Krebbet, 1793-1855
John Collier
Esteemed Contributor

Re: is linux stable/reliable enough ?

PS> I'm still waiting to see how strong of a wind it will take to actually snap a well maintained HP-UX box. I'm afraid it might rip the very fabric of time!

However the analogy is a valid one in my mind either way.
"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Stephen Krebbet, 1793-1855