Feature

Has Linux dug a grave for Unix?

Linux has, traditionally, been seen as a threat to the dominance of Microsoft's Windows operating system, but many at the LinuxWorld show in New York saw the open-source operating system as a bigger threat to Unix.

Randy Mott, chief information officer and senior vice-president of Dell, put it bluntly in his keynote address. "Unix is dead," he declared.

Mott's declaration followed a Goldman Sachs report, issued earlier this month, which predicted that a combination of market demands and technical improvements would see Linux poised to become the dominant operating system even in high-end data centres.

In doing so, it would have a greater impact on Unix than it does on Windows, the investment house noted.

"It's really about the challenges with proprietary operating systems," Mott said. "Just as important is the [challenge with] proprietary hardware."

Analyst firm IDC also issued a report saying that Linux servers are ready to take on new roles with corporations, including hosting databases, as well as being application servers for Web-enabled applications and acting as platforms for transaction applications.

This year's LinuxWorld certainly showed the momentum behind the open-source software, with companies, large and small, announcing new or updated products designed to bolster Linux capabilities and presence at the enterprise level.

IBM issued a beta of a 64-bit version of its DB2 database for Linux and which runs on chips from Advanced Micro Devices. Red Hat introduced a systems management framework, while Computer Associates International announced the formation of an internal Linux technology group, as well as a selection of products.

UnitedLinux announced a software developer's program intended to equip independent software vendors with the resources to port, test, and create solutions backed by the Linux consortium.

Products and lower costs up front costs are the most obvious and immediate reason for choosing Linux over Unix, according to Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer of Red Hat.

"The cost-savings opportunities are the name of the game. That is going to change the industry," he said.

Other immediate benefits that Linux has over Unix include the ability to tap into the open-source community for access to feature upgrades and security fixes, Linux advocates claimed.

Furthermore, a stack of open-source technologies has loosely formed, known as Lamp. It consists of Linux as the operating system, the Apache Web server, MySQL database and PHP programming language, and it can compete on some levels with proprietary Unix-based stacks.

If Linux technology has come of age, it has a long way to go before it displaces the enormous installed base of Unix systems, and not everyone agrees that Unix has had its day.

Sun Microsystems, for example, used the show to reaffirm its support for Solaris, its Unix operating system and said that the main competition for Linux comes not from Unix, but from Windows - on both desktops and servers.

"The idea that Linux obliterates Unix is dead wrong," said Jonathan Schwartz, vice-president of software at Sun.

Sun, however, is staking its claim in both camps. The company also used LinuxWorld to announce that some of its products, including Sun One (Open Net Environment) application and directory servers are now available on Linux.

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This was first published in January 2003

 

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