Unix turns 40: The past, present and future of the OS

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Users: Unix has a healthy future

If you’re among those predicting the imminent demise of Unix, you might want to reconsider. Computerworld’s 2009 Unix survey of IT executives and managers, conducted online in March and April, tells a different story: While demand appears to be down from our 2003 survey on Unix use, the operating system is clearly still going strong.

Of the 211 respondents, 130 (62 percent) reported using Unix in their organizations. Of the 130 respondents whose companies use Unix, 69 percent indicated that their organizations are “extremely reliant” or “very reliant” on Unix, with another 21 percent portraying their organizations as “somewhat reliant” on Unix.

Why are IT shops still so reliant on Unix? Applications and reliability/scalability (64 percent and 51 percent, respectively) were the main reasons cited by respondents. Other reasons included cost considerations, hardware vendors, ease of application integration/development, interoperability, uptime and security.

AIX was the most commonly reported flavor of Unix used by the survey base (42 percent), followed by Solaris/Sparc (39 percent), HP-UX (25 percent) and Solaris/x86 (22 percent), “other Unix flavors/versions” (19 percent), Mac OS X Server (12 percent) and OpenSolaris (10 percent). Of the 19 percent who selected other Unix flavors, most said they used some kind of Linux.

Almost half of the respondents (47 percent) predicted that in five years, Unix will still be “an essential operating system with continued widespread deployment.” Just 5 percent envisioned it fading away. Of those who said they were planning on migrating away from Unix, cost was the No. 1 reason, followed by server consolidation and a skills shortage.

Which of the following best describes your Unix strategy?

  • Unix is an essential platform for us and will remain so indefinitely: 42 percent
  • Unix’s role in our enterprise will shrink, but it won’t disappear: 18% percent
  • We are increasing our use of Unix: 15 percent
  • We expect to migrate away from Unix in the future: 12 percent
  • None of the above: 8 percent
  • We have already implemented a plan to migrate away from Unix: 5 percent
  • Other: 2

Which of the following best describes your vision of where Unix will be in five years?

  • It will be an essential operating system with continued widespread deployment: 47 percent
  • It will be important in some vertical market sectors, but it will not be considered an essential operating environment for most companies: 35 percent
  • It will generally be seen as a legacy system warranting a non-Unix migration path: 11 percent
  • Unix, as well as other operating systems, will fade in importance as we go to hosted (cloud, software-as-service, etc.) systems: 5 percent
  • None of the above: 2 percent
  • Other: 1 percent

Base: 130 IT managers who said their companies use Unix. Percentages do not add up to 100 because of rounding. Source: Computerworld 2009 Unix Survey

This story, "Unix turns 40: The past, present and future of the OS" was originally published by Computerworld.

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