Is Unix dead? We debated that issue as we worked on this week's cover story, "What's Left Of Unix?"
My answer is no, it's not dead. As a matter of fact, I think I hear it laughing on its way to the bank.Fewer Unix systems are being shipped, but they're commanding a higher premium than ever. Unix still represents a $2 billion market, the largest operating-system market by far. Despite Windows Server recent gains, it still represents about $1.6 billion, when you're looking at operating system-only revenues. And Linux in terms of revenues represents one-tenth of what the good, gray Unixes combined represent. Granted the future belongs to Linux, but as a $2 billion market, is Unix dead?
My answer is no. It's the new, improved legacy system. It's taking over the position once occupied by the IBM mainframe. Some applications will only run on a mature Unix because their writers don't want to port them to Linux. Unix still has advantages in terms of stability, reliability, and scalability.
Oracle used to tout Linux and it has made dramatic headway selling databases on Linux. But as Oracle's interest shifts toward applications, its endorsement of operating systems is swinging back toward Unix. Back in November, CEO Larry Ellison declared that Solaris would be the preferred platform for maintaining Oracle and developing Oracle applications. And a month later, Oracle president Charles Phillips said it was important to Oracle to be part of IBM's AIX Collaboration Center in Austin.
What's going on? Can't Oracle make up its mind which operating system it prefers? The answer is, it prefers lots of business on both because both are major hosts of ERP applications. Unix still matters in the league where Oracle hopes to make its applications play.
The future belongs to Linux, but the future hasn't arrived yet. In the meantime, the Unix vendors are finding it's a lot of fun to keep making those trips to the bank--and sharing a chuckle now and then.