ownCloud Server 8.1 Will Not Support Windows as Server Platform Natively

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We want to enable users to fully control their own data – this is the ongoing mission of ownCloud. Of course, we also want those users to have the best possible user experience, regardless of their chosen platform. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, our Microsoft Windows Server support has always been less than ideal. After much deliberation with our team, an analysis of the pros and cons of this move – we have decided to stop support for Windows as an ownCloud application server. Despite this, it is still possible to get ownCloud running on a Windows server, so read on for more information! Of course ownCloud 8 will continue to receive security and stability updates for quite a while longer.

Update: See below for a solution for Windows Server users since ownCloud 8.2

Platform support in ownCloud

The ownCloud community remains focused on enabling users to fully control their data, and to bringing our technology to as many people as possible. This has been the context for our technical decisions in ownCloud, including our technology platform (PHP), default setup with SQLite, the focus on user experience and a lot of other internal design decisions. While most developers use Linux as server platform, we work on supporting other platforms for the ownCloud server as well. ownCloud can run on small embedded systems like the RaspberryPi as well as server clusters as described in this blog posts.

Unfortunately, Windows has proven to be a less than ideal environment for a powerful PHP web app like ownCloud. We tried to work around some shortcomings like file system limitations by implementing an abstraction purely for Windows. However, this impacted the performance and stability and caused extra work for the other platforms. Together with the quality problems of PHP on Windows and restrictions like 32bit, the Windows platform just doesn’t support the experience that ownCloud wants to provide to the users. As a result, ownCloud 8 released with a number of known, serious bugs, and our ability to fix these bugs is severely limited.

In the end, we do not want to promise support for something where we cannot hope to provide the best support possible.

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XAMPP is a solution often used to deploy ownCloud on Windows

Windows Server

The Windows Server platform has caused a lot of headaches and has required many work-arounds. For one, there is only support for 32bit PHP on Windows Server, so it is not able to reliably deal with files larger than 2 Gigabyte – a pretty fundamental limitation. On top of that, the Windows platform suffers from file name encoding problems that can not be dealt with properly, causing file syncing problems especially with the client and occasional file operation fails, broken user avatars and even issues with the handling of encryption keys – all things that have the potential to lose user data.

We worked with Microsoft engineers on these and other issues. Unfortunately, Microsoft has scaled back their investment in PHP on Windows, slowing down development of fixes for various branches of PHP. Most of the improvements needed are only expected to be released with PHP 7 without being back ported into minor updates to earlier releases. It takes time for new major PHP releases to spread widely and as a result, ownCloud won’t be able to build on these improvements for another 2 or 3 years at least. Unfortunately, during this time, our users would encounter these limitations on a regular basis, and there would be little we could do to help.

Features also suffer on the Windows platform. There is no smbclient and while there is native support for accessing Windows Share, PHP on Windows does not work very well with it so ownCloud can not offer support for Windows file shares. And due to the lack of some low level command line tools, only a subset of the thumbnails ownCloud can create will be generated under Windows.

Last but not least, ownCloud has experienced reliability and performance problems with MSSQL, causing extra testing and bug fixing efforts, as well as leading to extra code that has to be maintained and updated. And as mentioned – the contributors needed to do this extra testing and maintenance have not stepped forward.

All of this contributed to the decision to no longer support Microsoft Windows Server as a platform for ownCloud Server 8.1, and to instead apply those resources to providing the best file sync and share experience possible – and to enabling users to fully control their data.

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Bitnami offers virtual machine images with ownCloud

What then?

Of course, some people do depend on Windows as a server platform and indeed, for many other tasks it works fine. To make it as easy as possible to have a stable and performing ownCloud experience on Windows Server going forward, ownCloud is offering a set of virtual machine images for cloud or metal deployment on the download page. Running ownCloud in a virtual machine on your Windows server is fully supported. For example, the options offered by Bitnami include images you can directly deploy to GCP, AWS and Azure, an Ubuntu 14.04 based virtual machine you can run on your own system, and a Docker image which is being developed. SUSE Studio offers a wide range of virtual images with ownCloud as well and you can find many more options in the virtual machine tab on our install page.

Moreover, ownCloud 8.0 still has the ability to run on Windows Server and while so far nobody stepped up to fix the known problems with it, users already depending on ownCloud 8 on Windows Server will be happy to know that ownCloud 8.0 is planned to receive security updates until Q4 2016.

Future

We want to emphasize that we do not drop support for Windows Server out of dislike–rather, we must make a strategic decision based on priorities. ownCloud Server does not work reliably on the Windows platform, and we have been unable to find folks to assist with these problems. We urge those of you impacted by this change to consider your options. Aside from migration, if enough people step up to fix the bugs related to Windows Server support in ownCloud 8 and commit to supporting ownCloud on Windows, there is no reason not to bring a future release back to Windows Server.

UPDATE with ownCloud 8.2

This ownCloud release introduces a solution for Windows Server users. In the Appliance tab on our download page we offer a fully pre-configured virtual machine image which you can easily run in a tool like VirtualBox. To make setting up your ownCloud even easier, the built in ownCloud Proxy app gives you a stable url and an easy way through firewalls blocking you from accessing your ownCloud with help from PageKite.

28 Responses to “ownCloud Server 8.1 Will Not Support Windows as Server Platform Natively”

  1. Dirk

    Time to say good bye… Sadly we see the announcement that owncloud will not support Windows Server as well as MS SQL in the future. We have tested it during an public-funded R&D Project and we were really excited. Unfortunately we are not supporting Linux in terms of data storage.

  2. Klaus

    the real problem lies in different layer.

    Yes, to be honest, I might be able to learn how to get this running in Linux. If it were something not connected to the internet, I might even try it.

    But will I ever have the Linux knowledge to dare to connect this Linux machine to the internet? And have confidence my data will neither be stolen, nor compromised or just the who;e Linux machine be remotely killed off?
    For me, that is the real showblocker. It is one thing to have the private photos on a Linux NAS, and another, to store really confidential info in OC.
    OC is meant to be connected to the internet. Neither for a virtual appliance nor for my own Linux machine, I would do this. And to gain so much knowledge on Linux safety is quite a different matter from just being able to install OC.

    In the end, it is just a business decision, but I see no ‘safe’ way to stay (yet). Pydio et al might be happy now that they can compete to be the best Windows alternative.

    • Jos

      It is true that it takes some learning about the security aspects of Linux before you could confidently run this and that big picture matters.

      On the other hand, knowing how to run Linux is a useful skill not just for ownCloud. Overall, Linux has proven to be a very secure and capable platform for hosting and while it is of course not always the best solution, the skill of being able to run a Linux server is one that will increase your value as employee for many, many employers and might come handy at your current company. It could give your employer a chance to diversify his infrastructure, decrease costs, improve security and scalability and offer access to a wider range of software. Often, Linux is the first platform targeted by ISV’s, with Windows as a second choice… We don’t WANT to drop support, mind you, it is just that we’re forced to due to lack of interest and growing difficulties with the platform itself, which isn’t developing as fast as it needs to to keep up to Linux. At least in the PHP area (and with 80% of the web running PHP, that is saying something).

      It is well known that Linux developers and sysadmins earn more than those from the Microsoft ecosystem. That is not just due to scarcity, but also because they can handle more servers/users and I can imagine often they can work with more platforms, making them more experienced overall (or at least, their resume looks like that :D)

      So, in the even bigger picture, it might be worth it the investment, both personally and from the point of view of your business.

      Not that Pydio might not be a great solution for a home or one-person business or less crucial infrastructure. But security-wise, keep in mind that ownCloud is beginning to enter the Financial Services business – that, perhaps, is an interesting indication of where it stands in terms of having had (and getting) code audits and such. ownCloud, Inc. now has the size and success needed to employ full-time security people (well, since early next year already…) and that does of course have a pay-off.

  3. schtebo

    It would be great if you could still support Windows for all coming releases. I love Linux, but in our environment Linux is not possible.
    If Owncloud fails, we have to move to another WEBDAV/CALDAV Solution.
    At the moment we try http://baikal-server.com/ but they have also some issues.

    Regards

    • Chris

      Hi,

      have you read the initial blogpost 🙂 Jump in and pay for a Windows PHP developer and Windows will still be supported. 😉

  4. kerp

    Linux is not an option for many users
    Running a virtual Linux appliance of Owncloud under Windows is not the same as running Owncloud directly under Windows… We would have to maintain the Linux system any way. That means patching without the ability to centralize patch deployment (WSUS), that means enforce security policies localy on each Linux server without the ability to do that from a central place (GPO)…

    I am going to try the alternatives. Pydio is really a good one and they support Windows so far.

    • Jos

      Yes, I’m sorry that we can’t make it work reliably. It would be great if Microsoft would continue to support PHP on Windows but they have clearly dropped support to a bare minimum and with the limitations already there, Linux is just a far superior platform for ownCloud and we don’t have any volunteers willing to take care of it.

  5. Addi

    Hey, dear folks,

    Question: does that apply only to Windows SERVER and not to Windows 7/8 and the like?

    Windows and I split up for the sake of open source sexiness after Windows showed security concerns and stability of a drunken borderline teenager back in the 90’s, but two years ago, I had an encounter with what I’d call a mature version and now I try to love both the best I can.

    I just set up an instance on Windows 7 and configured it cautiously and as Windows was relatively new to me, I spend quite some time on it but will make up a linux server immediately cause I don’t want to migrate stuff when people became used to it and feed it the gigabytes.

    Kind regards,

    addi

    • Lukas Reschke

      > Question: does that apply only to Windows SERVER and not to Windows 7/8 and the like?

      It applies to the whole Windows platform for the ownCloud server. This means you can still use the ownCloud sync client on your favourite Windows OS but you cannot run the ownCloud server on it.

  6. kevin

    Its sure that if you try to make a 1 install fit all there is to be a problem somewhere like when you try to play a Xbox game on a wii system, it would take a lot of tweaking to make it work.
    since the build-in dav and php is not supported the same way on windows it would be more advisable to make a windows version of owncloud that would use Microsoft’s webdave, that would work with available php version for Microsoft and that would work with Microsoft user right more properly.
    Cutting of support to windows would be like saying to ¼ of your community that not even they have to rush to install it on windows but now they won’t have any of the new possible feature(s)

    • John

      Well your 1/4 of the community is more like 1/33 of the community 😉

      • Jos

        It is true that many people do use XAMPP to get ownCloud up and running – but most longer-term installations use Linux.

        We’re certainly not happy to be raising the bar here for people familiar with Windows and not Linux, but we’re forced to…

  7. Not Surprised

    This has always been a challenge when trying to make open source software available across platforms. Look back in history to see what it took to get Apache to operate on Windows Server. I think any open source organization needs to be commended for as least trying.

  8. No one

    What about Apache on Windows?

    • ray

      This is about PHP issues and has nothing to do with a webserver, so Apache on Windows suffers from the same problems

      • No one

        At the very least the mentioned 32-bit only problem is specific to Windows Server. MSSQL is also one of the listed gripes which can easily be avoided on Windows. I was hoping at least some of the issues are alleviated on WAMP, but I guess I was wrong.

        • Jos

          Well, sure, SOME issues, but there are still many others left, enough to not make it a viable platform I’m afraid…

          • Drashna Jael're

            like the file name support. And the file locking support.

            It’s a shame that you couldn’t find and hire a few Windows developers instead of outright dropping windows support.

          • Jos

            Well, if we’re to hire people, somebody has to pay – and nobody was willing to pay… Sadly.

  9. victor tramp

    …and nothing of value was lost

    • Drashna Jael're

      haha
      It’s a shame that Microsoft is starting to muscle in on Linux’s turf, and in a few years, may completely depreciate linux.

      • Jos

        I doubt that that’ll happen, Microsoft usage has already receded to pretty much only the desktop and that being a dying market and MS failing to gain ground in any other area, I wouldn’t bet any money on them…

  10. Drashna Jael're

    I’m very sorry to hear that, as I primarily use OwnCloud on Windows Server.
    This leaves me with a foul taste in my mouth, though it is not unexpected.

    Now, I’m looking at a different solution, or setting up a dedicated linux VM to migrate to. 🙁

    • Husi Susi

      I’m very sorry to hear that someone does not understand this decision.
      I am Linux/Windows Administrato and most of our web technology is running on Linux, whereas local servers are predominantly Windows.
      We found Linux system to be faster, too. And, owncloud.org being a free system we thought the Server OS should be free, too!
      That someone does not matter about “Windows (PHP 32 bit) not able to reliably deal with files larger than 2 Gigabyte” is for me incomprehensible.
      It is much easier to install, update and administer a Linux server (Owncloud) than Windows.
      However, I understand the Xenophobia or fear of strangers !

      Best regards
      HS

      • Drashna Jael're

        Clearly, you’ve misunderstood.
        I do understand the reasoning behind the decision, but that doesn’t lessen the taste.

        And I run Windows Server 2012R2 Essentials specifically, for a number of reasons, and don’t wish to migrate away from it for JUST ONE service.
        As for PHP, while that’s what microsoft supports, I’ve been running the 64 bit “experimental” version of PHP for a few years now. It works fine, and doesn’t have the 2GB limitation.

        And I disagree about installation comment. If you’re new to linux, getting it up and running is a nightmare.
        However, if you’re familiar with linux (like you clearly are), then i’m sure it’s easy.

        So, thank you for talking down to me like I’m an idiot (and feeding into the general impression online that linux users are condescending a**holes).

    • Jos

      Look at it this way. Knowing how to run Linux is a useful skill not just for ownCloud. Overall, Linux has proven to be a very secure and capable platform for hosting and while it is of course not always the best solution, the skill of being able to run a Linux server is one that will increase your value as employee for many, many employers and might come handy at your current company. It could give your employer a chance to diversify his infrastructure, decrease costs, improve security and scalability and offer access to a wider range of software. Often, Linux is the first platform targeted by ISV’s, with Windows as a second choice… We don’t WANT to drop support, mind you, it is just that we’re forced to due to lack of interest and growing difficulties with the platform itself, which isn’t developing as fast as it needs to to keep up to Linux. At least in the PHP area (and with 80% of the web running PHP, that is saying something).

      It is well known that Linux developers and sysadmins earn more than those from the Microsoft ecosystem. That is not just due to scarcity, but also because they can handle more servers/users and I can imagine often they can work with more platforms, making them more experienced overall (or at least, their resume looks like that :D)

      So it might be worth it the investment, both personally and from the point of view of your business, to migrate to Linux.

      • Drashna Jael're

        If I was doing this for a company, that would be one thing, but I’m doing this for personal usage at home.

        I have no interest in learning linux, JUST to create an owncloud installation that I can use at home.
        Which is … unfortunately, exactly what I’ve ended up doing. Namely, because I couldn’t find a good alternative to OwnCloud for IIS.

    • Rick

      I too used Owncloud on Windows and although it worked I was soooooo happy when I made the change about 6 month ago. All the issues I had with the Windows installation went away. The speed difference alone was huge. I understand how you feel but I believe this was the best choice for this particular product. This will allow the dev team to focus and be able to fix things and come out with new features quicker.

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