Thursday, December 7, 2006

Picking the right Intranet platform

Finding the right Intranet platform isn't simple: while it is nice to have choices, it can be confusing. There are the four different flavors of Windows NT (Intel, Alpha, RISC and PowerPC), even more varieties of Unix, Macintosh and Novell's NetWare. A number of products only run on a single brand of processor (such as Intel NT or SGI Unix) and others work best under certain system components (such as using Open Transport for the Mac to support TCP/IP networking).

We recommend examining the following five criteria before picking the right set of operating system and hardware:

* ease of setup/configuration
* functionality
* integration into existing file, print services
* scalability
* availability of third party tools

Ease of setup refers to how quickly you can install the hardware, OS, and various Intranet applications and configure them to get up and running. Windows NT seems the clear leader here: not only is the OS itself fairly simple to setup, but many of the Intranet applications themselves don't take much to get going. A close second and a strong contender is Macintosh: in some cases, Mac apps can be even easier to get running than NT. Unix and NetWare are more complex to setup both from the operating system as well as the applications.

Functionality is a difficult one to call, but Unix seems to lead the pack, followed quickly by NT. To Unix' credit, you get just about all you need to set up an Intranet as part of the basic OS: mail, news, and ftp servers aren't extra products as they are with the other OSs.

Chances are you probably have a NetWare network already running at your shop, so integrating any Intranet into your existing file and print services would probably be easier using something based on NetWare -- maybe. NT is a strong alternative here, given Microsoft's and Novell's integration efforts to date and the number of products that are available to bridge the gap.

As far as scalability, or the ability to increase the performance of your platform as more demands are made on the various system resources (disk, memory, processor, network connection), Unix and NT are the clear favorites here.

Finally, the availability of third party tools is also hard to pick a winner. However, we have a clear loser: NetWare. The remaining platforms have a variety of tools available for constructing Intranets.

So, given these criteria, it seems as if NT and Unix have the best possibilities and most choices. And if you examine most of the reports about Intranet installations, that is pretty much in agreement with what is happening today.