A customer recently asked what is the best operating system on which to run Confluence, and after some thought (and a bottle of Asahi) I came up with this response:

The answer to “which operating system” is very similar to the one I give for “which database?” The best operating system for running Confluence is the one you have the most confidence administering. Because Confluence is a Java application, the operating system it runs on is largely irrelevant in terms of stability or performance, so long as you don’t do something silly like point anti-virus software at your Confluence home directory.

One problem with being a reasonably small company with a product that runs on a wide range of operating systems, application servers and databases is that we don’t have the capacity to specialise. We can’t be your sysadmin or your DBA, and we hope you don’t expect us to be.

Atlassian directly supports our products. When we say we support Confluence “running on platform X”, that means we’ll break our backs supporting Confluence itself and any Platform X issue that is Confluence-specific, but the further you get beyond that, the more you’re looking at a “best effort” basis.

So we can help you get Confluence running behind IIS, but beyond that we sort of hope you know more about IIS than we do. Seeing as most Confluence installations aren’t massive, high-volume installations that need to be tuned to the nth degree, most customers aren’t going to need much more than this anyway.

If you need such a high-volume deployment, you’re probably going to have some in-house system administration expertise to begin with. And if you have a crack IT department with years of experience tuning Windows servers to extract the last ounce of performance, versus one pimply-faced teenager who installed Ubuntu on his toaster over the weekend, you should absolutely pick Windows.

As a sidenote: if you choose an operating system, application server or database because you have a lot of local knowledge, make sure that knowledge is actually available to you at reasonably short notice. (Especially if you are the vendor of said platform. There are few things more embarrassing than having to say in a support call: “Hey, you guys write this. Don’t you have anyone there who knows how to troubleshoot it?”)

All things being equal, however, all the servers at Atlassian run Linux. (The majority of our developers run OS X, but there’s a big difference between a workstation and a server) As such it’s the OS we’d be able to harness the most local knowledge about, which means our “best effort” will be a lot better if you’re running a sane Linux distribution

Hope this (at least a little bit) helps.

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