Will Unix be 86ed by x86es soon?

The 30-year reign of the Unix in enterprise servers continues on it inescapable decline thanks to the popularity of more efficient and less expensive alternatives and the migration of users from the RISC platform to x86 processor-based machines.

However, issues around security applications, resilience and demand for custom software guarantee that it won’t be curtains yet for the venerable enterprise operating system, according to technology analysts.

Analyst firm IDC predicts that Unix server revenue will slip from $10.2 billion in 2012 to $8.7 billion in 2017 and Gartner Research sees RISC and Itanium-based Unix spending to drop from 16 percent of the server market in 2012, to 9 percent in 2017.

However, while the Unix market may be declining, considerable competition in the segment remains and the “eventual extinction” of Unix will be a “very long, slow and profitable decline, according to Richard Fichera, vice-president of research firm Forrester Research.

Although organizations are increasingly thinking in terms of independent software vendor app that allows workloads to shift between Unix and Linux, he said, many customers demand custom code.


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The Unix system “remains stick” because of custom software which are in demand in such industries as financial services and engineering.

Unix platforms are also preferred by many firms because of the lack of x86 support in areas such as software for telecommunications, manufacturing and finance, said Errol Rasit, research director at Gartner.

He also said Unix enjoys and edge over most alternatives dues to its security and encryption features, low latency and high-speed backplanes for controlled response times in critical environments.

Due to the length of time, Unix has been in the market, it has also earned a reputation for resilience and reliability, according to Kirk Bresniker, vice president for Hewlett-Packard servers.

Beyond, resilience, the service and support capabilities engineered around Unix over the last three decades are critical factors impacting customer confidence, he said.

Read about the future of Unix here



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