Unix Enjoying Resurgence

A variety of factors are combining to drive a Unix resurgence in the enterprise, and the emerging message is clear: Reports of Windows NT's imminent dominance have been greatly exaggerated.

Compaq Computer Corp., which has taken a 180-degree turn from 1997's adherence to PC-based systems, now actively espouses mixed environments and heterogeneous systems.

Meanwhile, Intel Corp. "sees Unix making a resurgence," and is anxious to ensure that 64-bit operating systems proliferate, according to Dave Rowe, director of marketing for the Systems Management Group at Intel, in Portland, Oregon.

Both companies have their own interests in mind -- Compaq is pushing Digital Unix and Alpha-based systems, and Intel is trumpeting platforms for its 64-bit Merced chip -- so it can be difficult for users to discern hype from reality.

"We are not oblivious to these guys trying to push it on us, but I think there is a strong survivability for Unix in the industry overall," says Frank Petersmark, assistant vice president of IS at Amerisure & Co., in Southfield, Michigan.

Given the delay in Microsoft's Windows 2000 and a lack of enterprise-level functionality in current versions of NT, users are turning back to higher-end Unix servers for real enterprise solutions.

"We embraced NT early on and thought it would be able to do it all," says an IT manager at a Fortune 500 company. "But we were disappointed. It's not an enterprise solution, and that's why I think there is a movement back to big boxes. We are skeptical of Windows 2000."

Analysts say they think Unix is the reality and NT was, in part, the hype.

"Only in the minds of journalists was it a competition," says Daniel M. Kusnetzky, program director of operating environments and serverware, at International Data Corp., in Sarasota, Florida. "It is not a zero-sum game. Our studies show that Unix and NT serve different missions."

"In the press and by vendors' [accounts], things keep changing all the time. But in the real world, Unix has always been there," agrees Mary Hubley, an analyst at the Gartner Group/DataPro, in Delran, New Jersey. "Unix has been the silent powerhouse of corporations for the past 10 years ... nobody has bought NT to run corporatewide data centers."

But PC-based computing on the departmental level is alive and well. PC vendors such as Dell continue to drive Intel-based NT servers and have no plans to change.

"We are interested in serving the mainstream," says Carl Everett, senior vice president of desktops at Dell Computer, in Austin, Texas.

(Dan Briody (dan_briody@infoworld.com) is the Client/Server editor at InfoWorld. Cara Cunningham contributed to this article.)SIDEBAR: Moving to MercedWindows NT and Unix will compete on more equal footing once Intel delivers its Merced chip, because Microsoft's operating system and most popular Unix implementations will run on it. The following are currently being ported to Merced.

-- Sun's Solaris

-- Hewlett-Packard's HP/UX

-- Digital's Unix

-- IBM's AIX

-- SCO's Unix

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