No one questions the stability, reliability, and durability of Unix. But there are lots of questions about its future, particularly on systems that occupy the market between commodity x86 boxes and mainframes. The midrange Unix market hasn't grown in years, and the operating system faces competition from its cousin Linux, which can run on a variety of hardware platforms, from x86 to the more powerful and reliable systems that were originally built for Unix.
But rather than wait for the sun to set on this august platform, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle-Sun are retooling Unix to play a greater role in the virtualized data center.
One Platform To Rule Them All?
They're delivering blade systems that mix Unix and x86 CPUs on a common framework for networking and storage. For IBM and HP, integration goes beyond just interconnectivity. Both now offer management software that can monitor, provision, and administrate Unix, Windows, and Linux operating systems, both physical and virtual--as long as they're on the vendor's hardware.
IBM goes one step further by tying its flagship zSeries mainframe into the system management framework: That's one management platform for x86, midrange, and mainframe systems--the fabled "single pane of glass" management infrastructure that data center professionals dream about.
Unix fans may be pleased to see ambitious plans from the Big Three, but will this strategy appeal to the general IT community? On the surface, yes. Fifty-four percent of respondents from our 2010 State of Server Technology Survey say they prefer a single server vendor, to take advantage of purchasing power, knowledge, and support.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.