Enterprise Unix Roundup: Government Vibes, A New OS X

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Oct 24, 2007

Brian Proffitt
Government may be the next frontier for Unix. Meanwhile, Leopard gets ready to pounce, and which OS fares best in an AIX vs. Solaris rundown?

In an effort to actually live up to the proud name of Enterprise Unix Roundup, I thought this column would actually try to be a roundup.

Part of the rationale for such a structure this week is due to my recent return from Portland, having attended the Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON). No official Unix news came out of GOSCON, although there was a brief exchange during a keynote of the conference that gave me a brief glimpse into what the public sector might be thinking in terms of Unix, Linux and Windows deployments.

After Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin spoke on the benefits of open standards, Linux and government, an audience member asked him a question about where he thought Solaris might fit in public IT, given its recent shift to open source. The mere asking of the question was telling to me, since it indicates Sun's push to get Solaris recognized as more of a commodity-based piece of software may indeed be working.

Of course, Zemlin's answer was equally telling, albeit not surprising. He replied that in his view, Solaris and the rest of the Unixes were, while excellent operating systems, going to be relegated to merely filling niche operations in businesses. The real growth and competition would be between Linux and Windows from now on. Zemlin seems to be buying into the notion Gartner analyst George Weiss recently put forth: There will be no more new Unix applications developed after 2009. His specific remarks about Solaris may not get him a Christmas card from former colleague (as CTO of the Linux Foundation) Ian Murdock. Murdock, you remember, now works for Sun Microsystems on Solaris.

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As I've said before, I am not willing to concede Unix is on the way to that great hard drive in the sky. I talked with a number of other attendees at the conference to make sure the sole question about Solaris wasn't a fluke, and it does not seem to be the case. Many of the mid- to upper-level government IT managers remain very intrigued by Solaris over Linux because Linux did not always meet their standards requirements, and Solaris could — especially in the vendor support department. Of course, such statements are anecdotal, so take them as such.

Another reason not to count Unix out comes from a flavor of Unix that doesn't get much press in the enterprise space, though goodness knows other products from this company are mind-bogglingly popular.

I refer to the latest version of Mac OS X, known as Leopard. Leopard Server is scheduled to be released on October 26.

Leopard has a 64-bit kernel based on FreeBSD and the Mach 3.0 microkernel at its core. It features Samba authentication and Open Directory support, along with a host of other things. "Other things" meaning Active Directory support and a suite of calendar, e-mail and clustering servers.

This is a server aimed at the SMB space, and the price is really right: $499 for a 10-client license or $999 for an unlimited number of users. These days, Apple doesn't get as much attention for this product as it does for its iPhone, but the release of Leopard should not be overlooked.

Finally, I read an interesting article from ZDNet's Paul Murphy the other day that tried to do an apples-to-apples comparison of IBM's AIX and Solaris. It was a somewhat shaky premise, since AIX runs on the Power6 platform and Solaris on the UltraSPARC T2, but it was a good comparative review nonetheless.

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

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