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Three Softpanorama Solaris Whitepapers

Linux vs Solaris security whitepaper

The level of security achievable in Linux in comparison with Solaris is discussed and the problem of Linux integration into existing enterprise infrastructure is outlined. The author argues that all real and imaginable benefits of Linux notwithstanding adding another OS to the enterprise mix is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Fashion in IT should be resisted and that author agues that it make sense to distinguish from savings and security benefits of moving to EM64T architecture and savings and benefits of moving to Linux.

Typical Linux security problems are compared with Solaris for major dimensions of enterprise security including vulnerabilities  and patching framework as well as hardening procedures. The paper contains an executive summary that outlines major conclusions reached. The key finding is that the goal of diminishing (or at least not increasing) of the diversity of  operating system environments as a key prerequisite for the secure Linux deployment in the enterprise environment. We judge this goal to be  more important for general level of security in the corporation then individual qualities of Linux in security space (or its faults in the same space).  if also strongly affects potential savings.

We judge that this central goal requires sacrifices at lease one of existing enterprise OSes and is further complicated by Linux internal fragmentation and existence of two competing enterprise distributions (Red Hat and Suse). The comparative security matrix is presented that provides some insight on Linux security standing among commercial Unixes and Windows 2003 servers. The main conclusion is that currently Solaris leads in security in comparison to Linux, while Windows and Linux has generally similar  level of security with Linux having some advantage.    

The paper suggests that not only security, but other benefits provided by Linux, should be carefully evaluated against a usage of existing enterprise Unix flavors like Solaris and AIX. The paper stresses the often Linux is surrounded by too much hype and reality of large enterprise deployments looks different from newspaper articles. With Sun opening Solaris and providing version of Solaris for Intel EM64T hardware platform the possibility of using Solaris as an alternative to Linux should be considered in each individual case. In case where Solaris is already used for a particular application (for example e-commerce applications, SAP/R3, etc) just moving the hardware platform from UltraSparc to EM64T architecture looks more promising strategy then adding Linux to the mix.

For most corporate applications securitywise Linux is positioned in between RISK CPU based Unixes (AIX, HP-UX, Solaris) and Windows and is pretty close to Windows in general level of security as well as in the recommended length of patch cycle. Linux has higher number of vulnerabilities per year (close to Windows) then commercial Unixes. As a result Linux servers generally requires more frequent patching (probably monthly like in case of Windows servers) in enterprise environment (many enterprises are able to survive with quarterly patching for all but critical bugs for AIX and Solaris, semiannual for HP-UX). 

We also judge that availability of high-quality open source security tools and deep hardening can somewhat offset this patching period disadvantage and might permit using quarterly patching cycle for firewall-protected Linux servers.  Linux has better selection of open security tools including better selection of additional PAM modules then Solaris.

All-in-all, in security space large enterprise can get additional benefits from the deployment of Linux, if and only if such a deployment is strategically aligned with the goal of diminishing the operating systems platforms diversity.

Solaris vs Linux

Solaris 10 is a pretty revolutionary Os, the first flavor of Unix that deserves to be called XXI century Unix. It is more technically advanced OS then Linux and with the opening of Solaris 10 it should be recommended for enterprise customers, who prefer open systems.  Solaris  10 has uniquely instrumented kernel that makes such an amazing tool as DTrace possible. On SPARC hardware Solaris has some unique advantages like self-healing/hardware diagnostic capbilities. Linux is still preferable as a desktop of low cost development workstation due to a wider hardware compatibility and PC friendliness. That might change as Solaris for Opteron matures.  Solaris 10 security is dramatically better then security of Linux

Solaris Security and Hardening

Hardening currently is one of the most fashionable topics in security and we will try to cover it more then other topics. It is essentially an attempt to convert a general purpose server into an appliance to improve the level of protection from  external as well as internal threats, including the "fifth column" problem; there is no free lunch and hardening generally makes server less Unix user/developers friendly.  Given that complexity is the biggest single enemy of security, it's only logical to remove everything that is not essential for the task in hand, users be damned ;-) Although few, if any, fundamentally new Unix vulnerabilities are evident today, most today's Unixes do not include advanced security techniques, let alone the enhancements identified as essential to fight them. Solaris is one of the better Unixes in this respect and it does include some interesting features like advanced file attributes, roles and, especially, zones and privileges management (in Solaris 10+).

The author argues that deep hardening is essentially a process of conversion of general purpose Os into a specialized OS and  that's why for organizations without much local talent it might be better to use appliances.

The author formulated two laws of hardening:

Softpanorama First Law of Hardening:

The level of security of any Unix environment can not be significantly different from the level of qualification of system administrator(s) responsible for this environment...

Softpanorama Second Law of Hardening:

If a large discrepancy between the level of qualification of system administrator(s) and the level of hardening of the system exists, the main trend is toward restoring equilibrium at some, not so distant, point...

This article is an attempt of skeptic treatment of this theme and is a modest attempt to fight "security fascism":  counterproductive restrictions that complicate user and system administrator lives, while adding nothing of even diminishing security. There is almost no articles on the WEB that are critical or even slightly skeptical about security tools in general and hardening security tools in particular.   This article tries to fill the gap.




Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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Last modified: March 12, 2019