I have always thought that in the case of Microsoft's server operating systems that they were created with the idea that the end-user of those servers would use Windows. I also thought the same for Red-Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora.

Was this actually true though? Were servers OS ever really created with a specific OS for the terminal in mind or were they generally agnostic to what OS that the end-user used?

Does it help to keep the OSs under the same general roof ie keep the Linux servers working with some flavor of desktop Linux and the same for the Microsoft side of things or is it a non-issue at this stage of development?

I'm interested more in the enterprise side of things, clearly, a web server has to work with everything.

  • 3
    Huh? Windows is pretty much the same code base for workstation and server. Server has a few more programs, and different defaults for tuning parameters. What do you mean by the "end user"? Windows Server has a GUI, you don't need a separate Windows system to manage it. And the point about server operating systems is that the clients don't in general deal with interactive UIs that run on the server (application servers being a possible exception).
    – dave
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 16:03
  • 2
    Microsoft really likes selling Windows licenses. Exchange and its calendar function is probably the product resulting in most Outlook licenses sold which in turn required Windows. The embracement of web and other platforms is a very late development after Exchange got marked dominance. Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 16:11
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    @theking2 - NT was definitely intended as a server and I'm not sure what you mean by "the code based consolidated largely" but the core of NT - what Linus would call the "kernel" and much more - was new code specified, designed, and managed by people from the server OS groups at Digital. In fact, the "client" part of NT - the GUI - was segregated into being only a part of the "WIN32 Subsystem" which was itself separate from the kernel. (Originally it was much more segregated than it is now.)
    – davidbak
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 18:29
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    I'm sorry but how is a question on the history of server operating systems not on topic here? I know RHEL / Fedora part may be a tangent into recent tech but this question is actually interested in the historical perspective of how servers and clients have traditionally interacted
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 9:42
  • 2
    @davidbak NT 3.1 had FreeCell for people who wanted to play serious games ;-). Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 19:31

2 Answers 2


For context, I imagine this question is a follow-on to What exactly has the windows OS relationship been towards MS server offerings?

In the Windows world, yes, server editions of the platform were always intended at least in part to manage computers running non-server editions of Windows, going back to Windows NT 3.1 Advanced Server which could serve as a domain controller for other Windows systems. Many features in Windows domain controllers are only useful with Windows clients, so at least those features were presumably created “with a specific OS for the terminal in mind”.

In other operating system families there isn’t such a distinction between “server” and “regular” editions, and server/client control is typically delineated by protocol rather than operating system — for example, Kerberos. But some operating system families did work better with other computers running the same operating system; see for example NeXTstep’s network configuration.

RHEL isn’t designed to manage other systems running Fedora; various products piggy-back on top of RHEL to provide management features across a variety of operating systems, but they aren’t RHEL.

(Note that “terminal” is perhaps a misnomer here: Windows servers are self-sufficient, and connected systems typically don’t act as terminals in the retro-computing sense.)

  • I'd say the central part here, which does answer the question is, that client/server relations are not about OSes but protocols. He who follows the protocol is a client, or a server, depending on what side it speaks (if not both). Thus follows that the questions premise in itself is faulty.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 20:39

To answer this part:

Were servers OS ever really created with a specific OS for the terminal in mind or were they generally agnostic to what OS that the end-user used?

Novell Netware was made with CP/M and MS DOS as its "terminal" OSes in mind (later extended to MS Windows and OS/2, but depending on what you mean by "terminal", these might not count). No real consideration was given to other OSes as clients; those were primarily 3rd party based.

  • That’s a good point, and true of most PC NOSes at the time! Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 19:19

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