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The last days of Unix

Julie Sartain | Aug. 20, 2013
After a 30-year run, once dominant server OS gets 86ed by x86es

"The key to understanding the future of Unix is to consider the key workloads that are still optimized for the platform," Rasit says. "One of the best examples is relational database management systems (RDBMS); in terms of software revenue, RDBMS on Windows and on Linux have each, individually, already surpassed Unix. In 2011, in terms of RDBMS software revenue, 25 percent was deployed on Unix compared with 37 percent on Windows and 30 percent on Linux."

However, according to Rasit, the average size of each Unix deployment is much larger than the average Windows and Linux deployment. Nevertheless, the industry is also seeing examples where x86-based technologies are used to run mission-critical DBMS environments that Unix systems today run, such as Oracle Exadata platform and SAP HANA in memory database platforms.

"Eventual extinction of Unix? Maybe," Fichera says, "but it will be a very long, slow, and profitable decline. We have been increasingly conditioned to think in terms of independent software vendor applications that allow workloads to migrate easily between Unix and Linux but, for many customers, custom code is an issue. Unix systems remain sticky due to custom software and, in many industries such as financial services, engineering, etc., there are huge portfolios of custom applications."

"There is also the risk avoidance and conservatism inherent in the high-end enterprise operations mindset. In many cases, where the Unix systems are used for mission-critical systems, the risks of problems will still outweigh the perceived benefits in the eyes of many stakeholders until they see a long tail of Linux experience to convince them otherwise. A decade from now, there will still be a Unix market, much smaller than it is now, but with competing vendors and profitability," Fichera adds.

Rudd Canaday, co-founder/director of engineering at RHC Software, and one of the top three Unix team developers says, "As for the future of Unix, I think that most vanilla installations will be Linux, but that Unix clones will still be used by companies that want their own customized version. As a result, I expect there will still be lots of Unix-based installations into the foreseeable future."


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