Enterprise Unix Roundup: Unix Buzz Defies Prognosis

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Sep 27, 2006

Brian Proffitt
The research firms may be reading the end of Unix in their tea leaves, but word on the street says otherwise.

Anyone paying any sort of attention to the operating system world these days, has likely gotten the sense that Vista's stock is going down, Linux's is going up, and Unix's ... Ah, perhaps its not as bad as one might think.

Despite the PR hit HP-UX will probably take from the HP board of directors scandal, Unix operating systems — on the whole — are getting quite a bit of buzz lately. This may seem counter-intuitive to all the Gartner and IDC reports exposing the decline of Unix server deployments and revenue, but remember, I said "buzz," which is not necessarily a synonym for reality.

Still, it's hard to ignore the rumblings heard over the horizon lately. Solaris, for example, got some serious street cred when it was revealed last week that IT mega-giant Google was putting the OpenSolaris operating system through test paces in its network. Linux has long been the platform of choice for Google's infrastructure. To hear even intimations of otherwise was rather surprising. But there was Sun CIO Robert Worrall in an interview with Computerworld, saying "Google is one of several large companies using open source implementations of Solaris, including Solaris 10 and Solaris Express."

Now, if you read the article further, you will note that Google itself has not confirmed or denied Worrall's statement, thus leaving the matter still open for speculation. Still, if true, this would be quite a coup for the Santa Clara systems vendor. And, even if it's just buzz, it's the kind of buzz that makes people sit up and take note.

Solaris was also the beneficiary of a nice surprise from graphics card manufacturer NVIDIA, which released a beta NVIDIA 1.0-9625, for Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris. Slowly but surely, Solaris is gaining more mindshare in the IT community.

And yes, you read that right: a FreeBSD version of the graphic driver. BSD, it seems, is also one of the Unix flavors getting some buzz these days. But unfortunately, not all of the buzz is positive.

Late last month, Charles Hannum, one of the four co-founders of the NetBSD operating system, sent a note to the netbsd-users mailing list lamenting what he perceives as the downfall of NetBSD.

"The NetBSD Project has stagnated to the point of irrelevance. It has gotten to the point that being associated with the project is often more of a liability than an asset. I will attempt to explain how this happened, what the current state of affairs is, and what needs to be done to attempt to fix the situation," Hannum wrote.

In the rest of his missive, Hannum cited a lack of strong leadership — such as what is enjoyed by the Linux kernel development team in the form of Linus Torvalds &3151 and a coup of the NetBSD board of directors in 2000-2001 as reasons why the project has become so weak.

Detractors of the NetBSD project immediately echoed Hannum's concerns, typically citing the more permissive BSD-style license as another reason for the operating system's decline. This may be more than GPL-chauvinism: In a later interview with ONLamp this month, Hannum himself said if they had to do it all over again, the NetBSD founders might have gone with the LPGL license. The LPGL license, however, didn't exist when NetBSD began.

If I had to give you a feel for the health of NetBSD, I would have to say the prognosis isn't good. But, interestingly, I am hearing more and more IT managers mentioning BSD flavors as a possible deployment option. So don't count the BSDs out just yet.

Brian Proffitt is managing editor of JupiterWeb's Linux/Open Source channel, which includes Linux Today, LinuxPlanet, and AllLinuxDevices.

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