Enterprise Unix Roundup: One Direction for Post-Enterprise Unix

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Jun 4, 2008


Brian Proffitt
The number of large enterprises is much smaller than other markets, and Unix is still losing market share to Linux. So where can Unix go from here?

Since much of my job involves wandering around the Internet looking for news, I often find off-the-wall things that one might not expect.

I won't share all of this stuff because I don't think limegreengelatinbabes.xxx is really something worth sharing here, even if it ran Unix on its server. But a few recent (and non-fiction) articles got me thinking about what a post-enterprise Unix world might look like.

The key article I stumbled across was on Ars Technica's #open.ended blog, where writer Ryan Paul was examining the various operating systems you could try on the Asus Eee PC, the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) Linux or Windows XP notebook device that has been selling like hotcakes in the U.S. consumer market. One of the "alternate" operating systems Paul reported on was OpenSolaris, which has been loaded onto a Eee PC by Sun Microsystems' Rolf Kersten via an external USB drive.

Enterprise Unix Roundup

When I first saw this I thought, "huh, I guess that makes sense." After all, with its new packaging system, OpenSolaris should fit onto an Eee PC just as well as Linux could. Then came my next thought: Is this a future platform possibility for OpenSolaris?

Again, there are probably not many technical reasons why it couldn't be a new home for OpenSolaris. Sun would likely have to put some official effort into developing a UMPC-ready version of OpenSolaris, and, of course, cut some deals with the OEMs making these machines and their cousins, the mobile Internet devices (MIDs). However, since consumer demand for such devices is still pretty high, they might want to.

But OpenSolaris (like Solaris before it) and the other Unix flavors have the label of being a "server" operating system. Want to run high-availability or high-performance apps on a huge server farm? Clearly this is a job for Unix. The thought of a "pure" Unix running on such a small device seems akin to asking Stephen Hawking to help out with your kid's fourth grade math assignment.

This might not be such a laughable prospect in the future because clearly Unix must find someplace to grow.

The facts are simple: Quarter after quarter, Unix loses server market share to Linux. Established enterprise players no longer are so keen on sticking with non-commodity systems. Or they're looking for a less-expensive option to run their applications. This, coupled with the fact that there are very few large enterprises out there (compared to the millions of smaller companies), means Unix in the enterprise simply has no where to go.

Thus, the need to find someplace new.

I doubt HP-UX or AIX will be running on a handheld electronic device any time in the future. HP and IBM can keep their respective Unix flavors up in the enterprise server space and just use something else to run anything smaller. (IBM announced Tuesday that very thing: Its new Lotus Foundations Start device for small businesses will run Linux.) HP's upcoming UMPC will do the same thing.

But Sun may have played it smarter than we thought by opening up Solaris and then, through Project Indiana, making it easier to manage and install. In doing so, Sun may have entered not just the corporate desktop market but possibly this new, emerging mobile market as well.

Maybe one day maybe an OpenAIX or OpenHP-UX will do something similar.

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

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