Home > Articles > Has the World outgrown Commercial UNIX?

Has the World outgrown Commercial UNIX?

2012/01/19

When you read articles about cloud computing or Enterprise computing, you rarely see the term ‘UNIX’ anymore. You see plenty of rhetoric about Linux and Windows but UNIX seems to have left the building, for good. And, by ‘building,’ I mean data center. However, that’s not the case. UNIX is alive and well in the world’s Enterprise data centers. It just doesn’t grab headlines like it used to. Does the fact that UNIX isn’t a newsworthy buzz term mean that it’s on its last legs as an Enterprise operating system. Certainly not. Commercial UNIX might have lost its “coolness” but it hasn’t lost its place running your business-critical applications and services.

Enterprise-level UNIX systems still rule the data center for the big workloads, the big databases and Big Data.

When selecting an operating system for your critical business needs, what do you look for? Reliability, availability, stability, versatility, virtualization, scalability, affordability, sustainability, supportability and sheer ability are terms that come to mind on which to judge an operating system. Plus you need a company behind the operating system that employs experts who understand the critical nature of your business. That’s the lure of commercial UNIX. That’s the decision point for many businesses: Support.

It’s fun to think of living in a world where a company can throw caution to the wind and use free software. The reality is that for a company to remain operational it must do so sometimes at greater expense. It’s wise to be frugal but you also can’t afford to gamble with your business’s livelihood based on whim or attitude founded on an ideal. Free software has its place in the data center. But, are you willing to risk your company’s mission-critical business on it?

So far, businesses say, “No.”

Commercial UNIX still wins in every category listed above. Yes, even affordability. Companies that use Linux never do so without also paying for support and 24x7x365 is expensive, even for Linux. Windows does some things well. Linux does some things well. Commercial UNIX does some things well. There is no single right answer to every problem. That’s why you don’t have many companies of any size that have a single operating system or platform anymore.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love Linux and free software but you have to realize that, when it comes to risking millions or perhaps even billions of dollars on your computing infrastructure, you have to use a time-tested, battle-proven technology. That technology is commercial UNIX.

Allow me to quote some statistics gathered by Gabriel Consulting Group (GCG) last year (2011) on this topic that’s published in their whitepaper, “Is Commercial Unix Relevant in the Midmarket?” The 300+ survey respondents represent companies of all sizes, including 44 percent from companies with more than 10,000 employees. However, the data in the report reflects the responses from the focus group (Midmarket, 4,000 or fewer employees), which is 46 percent of the total number of those surveyed. GCG has also included some data from the large company segment for comparison.

  • >80% stated that UNIX usage is increasing.
  • 49% said that 75% or more critical applications run on UNIX
  • >75% report that >50% mission-critical applications run on UNIX
  • Larger organizations state that 75% of their critical applications run on UNIX
  • 90% said that UNIX is strategic to their business
  • 98% of large company respondents stated that UNIX is strategic

What are the most important factors to those who choose commercial UNIX for their mission-critical workloads?

  1. Availability and Stability
  2. Operating System Quality
  3. Predictable Performance
  4. Vendor Support
  5. Raw performance, Speed, Scalability

What are the less important factors for those who’ve selected commercial UNIX?

  1. Easy Administration and Management
  2. Acquisition Price
  3. System Familiarity
  4. Virtualization Capability and Tools

These two lists say a great deal about commercial UNIX buying habits. One glaring point is that price is of less consequence than reliability. The top three reasons given are the reasons why commercial UNIX has many more years of life left in it for the applications and systems that are business mission-critical.

One point that’s a bit unclear in the survey is that of scalability. Sure, Linux and Windows are both scalable but only on PC hardware. And, that includes virtualization. PC hardware can’t compare to the “big iron” on which commercial UNIX runs. Of course, Linux (zLinux) does run on mainframe computers (z/OS) and that’s pretty big iron but most companies under the 4,000 employee levels don’t own a mainframe.

Although survey respondents said that raw performance, virtualization and scalability were not high on their most important aspects list, they’re still important. So is support. The people who write the checks still like to rely on companies that back their products. Companies have more confidence in commercial UNIX than they do in Linux, even when supported by primary vendors such as Red Hat or Novell. Although the Debian distribution is free of charge, companies would rather engage and pay for a real company’s support behind the product.

To drive home the point, the survey revealed that 41 percent of respondents feel that commercial UNIX support is superior to that of Linux vendor support at 30 percent. And, 47 percent believe that UNIX is more available and more reliable than Linux.

Most small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), like most Enterprises, have a heterogeneous environment. They run their mission-critical applications and services on commercial UNIX and user-oriented services (File, Web, Intranet) on Windows and Linux. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they would use commercial UNIX well into the future. While commercial UNIX doesn’t have that “cool” factor that Linux does, commercial UNIX still owns the mission-critical market.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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