I don't know exactly what happened with fellow ZDNet writer David Gewirtz's Linux server, but I do know it was bad. Really bad.
He's been having constant trouble updating and managing his software. The final straw was when he tried to install some updates to his hosted CentOS, a Red Hat Enterprise Linux clone, and it blew up on him.
His conclusion was that you need to be a Linux guru to keep a simple Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python/Perl (LAMP) up and running properly. I beg to differ.
Now, at this point, David would point that I am a Linux guru. True, I am. And, as it happens I also run a CentOS server at a hosting company for my own Web site, email server, and some LAMP applications such as WordPress. So, yes, I also know a lot about his particular server. But, do you know how much time—not trouble, just time—I've spent managing that system in the last year? According to my system logs: it's been about an hour.
That's not because I'm that good, it's because my hosting company and I set it up right the first time and I haven't had to spare a minute's thought to it, never mind any Linux expertise, since then. My Linux wizard server admin. skills, such as they are, go to my experimental servers, not my production systems. My work servers just run and run and … you get the idea.
That said, if you're going to run a server, any server, you may not need to be a wizard, but you do need to know the basics of your server and your applications. That's true regardless of your operating system.
Reading more closely, part of his problem seems to be that he's confusing operating systems. He talks about how using Ubuntu package instructions won't work on CentOS or Fedora. Well, no, they wouldn't. They're different distributions, different operating systems. It's like using Windows Server 2003 instructions on Windows 2008 R2. Sometime, it will work; sometimes, you're going to end up in a big mess.
I'm also not sure why he's spending so much time with manual setting up and tuning programs and configurations. Sure, just like with Windows Server, there are times a job is best done by getting down to the nitty-gritty with Linux .conf files and shell programming or Windows' .ini files and PowerShell scripts. But, in my experience, on both modern Windows and Linux servers, you seldom need to go to such a low-level these days.
The immediate cause of his problem that caused everything to go haywire was a GNOME desktop update. OK, if you're not a Linux expert, I can't expect you to know many of us who are Linux experts, like say Linus Torvalds, that GNOME 3.x isn't a desirable update to begin with. On the other hand, anyone who knows servers knows that there's no good reason to update am already working desktop interface---or any other program that's chugging along without any trouble---on a server. There's just no “win” in updating working server programs to justify the time.
Gewirtz thinks his life will be easier with Windows Server. Maybe it will be. I hope that it is. Perhaps his hosting company, which sounds a bit clueless about Linux, may know how to properly maintain Windows. But, I can tell you now, since I'm also something of a Windows Server expert, that Windows Server 2008 R2, the newest and best of Microsoft's server line, can also throw fits.
It may shock those of you who think I'm pro-Linux because of some irrational love for the operating system when I say that I think Windows Server 2008 R2 is a great server operating system. Indeed, it's ideal for many business situations.
I don't think Windows is a good fit, though, as a network edge server. If that's what David has in mind---and it usually is when people are talking about LAMP servers at hosting companies—I think he has a better choice.
That choice is to find a hosting company with a clue on how to update his servers and can give him the kind of support he needs. If you find yourself needing to add, tune, or modify programs a lot on your server you need a competent server administrator no matter what operating system you're running.