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The term network operating system is used to refer to two rather different concepts:

Network device operating systems[edit]

Network operating systems can be embedded in a router or hardware firewall that operates the functions in the network layer (layer 3).[2]

  • Open Source Network operating system examples:
    • Cumulus Linux distribution, which uses the full TCP/IP stack of Linux.
    • Dell Networking Operating System (DNOS)is the new name for the operating system running on switches from Dell Networking. This will run on top of NetBSD
    • Open Network Operating System (ONOS)
    • PicOS, Linux-based OpenFlow-supporting switching operating system from produced by Pica8.
    • VyOS, an open source fork of the Vyatta routing package

Historical network operating systems[edit]

Early microcomputer operating systems such as CP/M, MS-DOS and Mac OS were designed around a single user on a single computer. As local area network technology became available, two general approaches to handle sharing arose.


In a peer-to-peer network operating system users are allowed to share resources and files located on their computers and access shared resources from others. This system is not based with having a file server or centralized management source. A peer-to-peer network sets all connected computers equal; they all share the same abilities to use resources available on the network.[3]

The advantages include:

  • Ease of setup
  • Less hardware needed, no server needs to be purchased.

The disadvantages include:

  • No central location for storage.
  • Lack of security that a client/server type offers.


Network operating systems can be based on a client/server architecture in which a server enables multiple clients to share resources.[1] Client/server network operating systems allow the network to centralize functions and applications in one or more dedicated file servers. The server is the center of the system, allowing access to resources and instituting security. The network operating system provides the mechanism to integrate all the components on a network to allow multiple users to simultaneously share the same resources regardless of physical location.[3][4]

The advantages include:

  • Centralized servers are more stable.
  • Security is provided through the server.
  • New technology and hardware can be easily integrated into the system.
  • Hardware and the operating system can be specialized, with a focus on performance.
  • Servers are able to be accessed remotely from different locations and types of systems.

The disadvantages include:

  • Cost of buying and running a server are high.
  • Dependence on a central location for operation.
  • Requires regular maintenance and updates.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dean, Tamara (2009). "Network Operating Systems", Network+ Guide to Networks, 421(483)
  2. ^ Al-Shawakfa, Emad; Evens, Martha (2001). "The Dialoguer: An Interactive Bilingual Interface to a Network Operating System.", Expert Systems Vol. 18 Issue 3, p131, 19p, Retrieved 5/7/2011.
  3. ^ a b Winkelman, Dr. Roy (2009). "Chapter 6: Software", An Educator's Guide to School Networks, 6.
  4. ^ Davis, Ziff (2011). "network operating system", PCmag.comRetrieved 5/7/2011.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_operating_system — Please support Wikipedia.
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