Enterprise Unix Roundup: RIP Unix?

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Sep 26, 2007

Brian Proffitt
Is time running out on Unix development? One Gartner analyst believes Linux's success will reap the downfall of Unix by 2009.

It's a little disconcerting writing your own obituary, but recent pronouncements from Gartner's analyst-guru George Weiss compel me to tell you there will be no more Enterprise Unix Roundup after 2009.

What will kill this now-venerable column is the same thing Darl McBride claims killed The SCO Group: a certain fat, smiling penguin-loving operating system called Linux. At least, that's what Weiss claims.

Enterprise Unix Roundup will in fact suffer a secondary death, following the demise of the Unix operating system, which Weiss pinned down at 2009 in his recent address to the Gartner Open Source Summit. At that future time, he told the audience, no more new commercial Unix applications will be created.

That may not sound like dead to you, and I would agree, except I cannot envision how one would consider existing stagnant Unix instances alive. According to Weiss, Unix will still be around, but getting only updates here and there. No substantive innovation.

With that kind of prediction, clearly it's time to put away the keyboard and give up on Unix coverage altogether. The end of Enterprise Unix Roundup is near, right?

Discuss this article in the ServerWatch discussion forum

Well, now, hold on. While I would be loath to deny Linux is the up and comer in the critical-application space Weiss maintains is so important to the future status of Unix, I am not sure this means the end of Unix development. The Gartner analyst believes it will not be user migration from Unix to Linux that will do Unix in; rather, ISV migration will cut Unix off at the knees. I think that's not giving enough credit to Unix, which has a huge legacy install base.

According to excellent coverage from Peter Galli at eWeek, Weiss seems to presume that ISVs and Unix vendors will find it difficult to support and build new apps for Unix and Linux. He specifically cites IBM's continuing forays into Linux development.

I think, however, Weiss missed the point that Unix and Linux development are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This is especially true as flavors such as Sun's Solaris get more Linux-like functionality and wrappers are added. Compatibility problems are becoming increasingly moot as time goes on.

In a closed system, it would not be cost-effective to support Linux and Unix apps, and Weiss might have a good argument. But Linux is open, which means porting code to Unix is a far less costly and litigious process than, say, porting from Solaris to AIX.

For Weiss' prediction to come true, a huge percentage of the Unix install base would have to get swallowed up by one of the other contenders, and I simply cannot see that happening. Certainly not in just two years. It is more likely that more cross-platform efforts appear, and apps will be generated for multiple platforms, with Unix included.

But just in case Weiss is right, donations for the Enterprise Unix Roundup Memorial can be sent to the following Swiss bank account ...

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

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