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Continuing my coverage of last week's Data Center Conference 2009, held Dec 1-4 in Las Vegas, I attended an interesting session related to the battles between Linux, UNIX, Windows and other operating systems. Of course, it is no longer between general purpose operating systems, there are also thin appliances and "Meta OS" such as cloud or Real Time Infrastructure (RTI).
One big development is "context awareness". For the most part, Operating Systems assume they are one-to-one with the hardware they are running on, and Hypervisors like PowerVM, VMware, Xen and Hyper-V have worked by giving OS guests the appearance that this is the case. However, there is growing technology for OS guests to be "aware" they are running as guests, and to be aware of other guests running on the same Hypervisor.
The analyst divided up Operating Systems into three categories:
The analyst indicated that what really drove the acceptance or decline of Operating Systems were the applications available. When Software Development firms must choose which OS to support, they typically have to evaluate the different categories of marketplace acceptance:
For the UNIX world, there is a three-legged stool. If any leg breaks, the entire system falls apart.
Of these, the analyst consider IBM POWER running AIX to be the safest investment. For those who prefer HP Integrity, consider waiting until "Tukwilla" codename project which will introduce new Itanium chipset in 2Q2010. For Sun SPARC, the European Union (EU) delay could impact user confidence in this platform. The future of SPARC remains now in the hands of Fujitsu and Oracle.
What platform will the audience invest in most over the next 5 years?
A survey of the audience about current comfort level of Solaris:
The analyst mentioned Microsoft's upcoming Windows Server 2008 R2, which will run only on 64-bit hardware but support both 32-bit and 64-bit applications. It will provide scalability up to 256 processor cores. Microsoft wants Windows to get into the High Performance Computing (HPC) marketplace, but this is currently dominated by Linux and AIX. The analyst's advice to Microsoft: System Center should manage both Windows and Linux.
Has Linux lost its popularity? The analyst indicated that companies are still running mission critical applications on non-Linux platforms, primarily z/OS, Solaris and Windows. What does help Linux are old UNIX Legacy applications, the existence of OpenSolaris x86, Oracle's Enterprise Linux, VMware and Hyper-V support for Linux, Linux on System z mainframe, and other legacy operating systems that are growing obsolete. One issue cited with Linux is scalability. Performance on systems with more than 32 processor cores is unpredictable. More mature operating systems like z/OS and AIX have stronger support for high-core environments.
A survey of the audience of which Linux or UNIX OS were most strategic to their operations resulted in the following weighted scores:
The analyst wrapped up with an incredibly useful chart that summarizes the key reasons companies migrate from one OS platform to another:
Certainly, all three types of operating system have a place, but there are definite trends and shifts in this marketspace.