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How do I improve OS performance in a mixed data center?

We took on a legacy data center and now, planning for performance optimization is a necessary evil. How can we corral OS sprawl?

I've worked in many mixed-OS IT organizations, and they have pros and cons in terms of OS performance.

If you take on a data center or project with an unfamiliar OS -- Microsoft Windows Server 2012 in a Red Hat Enterprise Linux shop, for example -- that can give you an advantage.

If you want to learn more skills, multiple operating systems give you different perspectives, helping you better understand server operation and application demands.

Typically, performance tools exist on one OS but not another. And when you see the same complex topics explained in different OSes, reinforcement from these various perspectives deepens your understanding of the topic.

However, if you want to optimize OS performance quickly, rule out a mixed environment of Windows and Linux or Unix, or another proprietary OS -- it's more work.

New operating systems can differ from the existing installation more than you expected, especially in terms of performance. If you are a Linux-only shop, picking another OS to run one project can be a serious undertaking -- in particular, finding the appropriate skills to manage it -- even if the choice originally made sense. But if you already have FreeBSD or some other open source OS in-house, your company can adapt quickly if needed. OS performance optimization benefits from live, active skill sets, provided that your company is large enough and has enough training time for the staff to be proficient in diverse operating systems.

About the author:
Brendan Gregg is the author of Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud.

This was last published in September 2014

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