2008 in Review, Surveying the OS Landscape

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted Dec 16, 2008


Paul Rubens
It started sensibly enough with the launch of Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 in February. The new OS was generally well received, even if no one actually seemed to be implementing it. Server 2008 introduced several important new features, like the Server Core installation option — the key feature of which was that it got rid of all the important new features — and Hyper-V, Microsoft's important new virtualization offering. Perhaps the most notable thing about Hyper-V though was that it was a virtual feature: It wasn't ready for the release of Server 2008 and didn't see the light of day in its final form till June.

OS Roundup: With its butt-wiggling billionaires, walruses, jaded comics and bandicoots, in the world of enterprise operating systems, 2008 may well be the most surreal ever.

June saw the day-to-day retirement of Bill Gates from Microsoft, and the transformation of the ubergeek to one half of the world's most unlikely comedy double act, with the formerly funny Jerry Seinfeld making up the other half. The world was treated to the site of Gates wiggling his tochas as a sign to Jerry that in the future computers would be ... edible. It is rumored that this was part of a campaign to get people to buy more copies of Vista, although the campaign was canned before its meaning became clear.

Enterprise Unix Roundup

UNIX had a rather depressing year, with server spending on the platform down 8.7 percent in the third quarter according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker. Still, with 30 percent of the market based on spending (10 percent less than Windows), the senior citizen of the server room is still beating the pants off little Linux, which accounts for just 14 percent of server revenue. All three platforms saw declines in spending compared to the same quarter last year, but UNIX revenue fell the fastest, according to IDC's figures.

The year's real loser was Sun. The company lost market share and saw its value drop by almost 90 percent during the year. At its current share price, the company that once powered the Internet is worth little more than a bag of Twinkies.

Another UNIX company that may not have much of a future at the end of 2008 is SCO. Come to think of it, SCO didn't start the year with much of a future either. It started hostilities with the Linux world way back in 2003 when it demanded $1 billion from IBM, and its battle may finally have come to an end: In November, a federal judge ruled that SCO actually owes Novell $2.5 million plus interest. Confused? All you really need to know is that SCO is not UNIX, and given that it apparently doesn't have $2.5 million, the top candidate for title of the world's most unpopular software company now appears to be in serious trouble.

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2008 was the year that Apple tried again to make an impact on the enterprise OS world, with typically comical results. The Cupertino consumer gadget-maker has been offering server products for years despite failing to register anything more than the tiniest blip in terms of market share.

In June, it released version 2 of its iPhone firmware, which includes a couple of "business" features, such as improved support for VPNs and compatibility with enterprise e-mail systems, apparently in the hope that this would lead to wide-scale adoption of its server products. But probably thanks to an almost complete lack of enterprise-grade management and security tools, the iPhone has yet to be adopted to any extent in the enterprise market, and Apple's server market share remains minuscule.

With Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D and Virtual Pool replacing Super Monkey Ball among the top-selling apps for the iPhone, the signs are that Apple's converged mobile business device is turning out to be nothing more than a Nintendo machine that can make calls.

In the Linux world, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server continued to dominate the enterprise Linux market place. Novell continued its strategy of dancing with the devil by agreeing to take up to $100 million of Microsoft's closed-source-derived money in exchange for support coupons to give away or sell to its customers. Lower down the Linux food chain, Canonical released Ubuntu 8.10 Server Edition — codenamed Intrepid Ibex — in October. This is available in tandem with its longer-supported "Gutsy Gibbon" server OS, released in April.

The latter part of the year turned in to something of a Microsoft fest, with the Redmond giant holding a Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in early October, followed by the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in November. PDC saw the announcement of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform, and there was much talk of new Office Web Applications. Details were few and far between, but there's no doubt the company has seen what Google, Amazon and others are up to in the cloud, and wants to make sure that it is a part of (or should that be "central to") it.

And let's not forget self-proclaimed Linux "god "Linus Torvalds. In an effort to make things interesting and to keep Linux in the limelight during the year, he light-heartedly called all BSD developers "masturbating monkeys," and all Digg-users "wanking walruses." Perhaps not the nicest way of addressing other members of the technology community, but you can't help thinking that in years to come these would make excellent code names for future release of a certain well known open-source, Linus inspired operating system. Forget Gutsy Gibbons and Intrepid Ibexes: "Ubuntu 11.4 Server Edition: Masturbating Monkey," anyone?

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