Enterprise Unix Roundup: Is FooNix Enterprise Ready?

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Mar 3, 2005


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Probably. As operating systems achieve enterprise-class maturity, the thrill of downloading and installing till dawn has given way to satisfaction with actual productivity. ManEdit makes it easy to document without groff, or grief.

Michael Hall

Amy Newman

There's a bitter joke among forum moderators who keep an eye on operating system discussion sites: When a particularly frequent commenter says "FooNix 3.0 does everything I need! It's the perfect OS!" he really means FooNix is able to run a Web browser, since all he seems to do with it is write forum posts about how well it works.

We're sure FooNix is, in fact, a very nice operating system. We're less sure that its niceness says much about it these days, as there are many nice operating systems. You know ... like FreeFooNix, OpenFooNix, Red Fez FooNix, and even a version of FooNix Sun developed in-house but won't admit to anymore because Red Fez FooNix cleaned its clock.

Consider Solaris 10, for example. Just a few weeks ago Sun president Jonathan Schwartz crowed about nearly 540,000 license downloads for Solaris 10. What that means, exactly, is anyone's guess. Take us, for example: We downloaded a tarball of DTrace source, twice, thinking someone at Sun would have remembered to include a Makefile on our second attempt. We are neither hacking the source nor making use of a compiled DTrace build. In fact, we'd best be described as rubberneckers. We'd suspect a lot of people downloading Solaris 10, which has attracted a lot of attention, are rubberneckers, too.

According to the ever-quotable Mr. Schwartz, though, enthusiasm is so high that even his airplane pilot is running Solaris 10 on his laptop. We don't doubt it: We'll be downloading our own copy soon enough. If you're the sort of person who's into operating systems, there's no reason not to, short of miserly concern over the expense of burning it to some CDs or tying up your bandwidth.

For an enterprise user, the joy of massively commodified, common-as-trees Unix variants isn't in their natural beauty, it's in the interesting things they can build using them.

You don't have to read a lot of reviews to get the distinct impression that Sun has produced, unsurprisingly, another very good Unix. Why not grab a copy?

In fact, why not grab copies of several enterprise-ready operating systems?

Consider a recent editorial on the erstwhile OSNews site, which read, in part:

"Personally, I just can't stand anymore the endless debates between the Linux, Windows and Mac users. It's getting old, it's getting boring. These OSes are already mature, and they follow an evolutionary path with only a few revolutionary steps every now and then [...]

The editorial goes on to mention more than a dozen operating systems we're given to believe the author installed and ran in her quest for an operating system excitement fix. We, too, have had single weeks of downloading and installing four or five enterprise-ready operating systems — operating systems you'd find officially supported or preinstalled on gear from IBM, HP, Dell, and Sun.

The biggest worry we had each of those times wasn't whether the installation would complete, or if we'd be left with a usable system, but if we'd be done in time to move on to the next and, ultimately, hit all of our deadlines. Enterprise operating systems are pretty easy to come by these days. So easy, in fact, that in a week of five installations, only one (a Windows variant) asked for evidence of a license with a straight face.

The situation is such that in the past few years, commentators have taken to referring to Linux as a "natural resource" more akin to trees in a forest or rocks in a quarry than a finished good: For an enterprise user, the joy of massively commodified, common-as-trees Unix variants isn't in their natural beauty, it's in the interesting things they can build using them.

The value of an operating system has moved from its mere existence or feature set to how well it's supported, which is to say how much knowledge is available, and what is the expense involved to make it work up to its potential.

For people who spend all of their time waiting for the next release of FooNix so they can custom-compile a browser and rush out to post about how easy it is to compile a browser in FooNix, the glut of good alternatives is probably a little boring.

For the rest of us, it's a sign that enterprise technology, confronted with excellent foundations to choose from at every turn, can finally start being interesting.

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