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Enterprise UNIX – How it became the strategic platform of choice

Remember the run-up to Y2K?  While some people reading this blog may have been in grade school, and others were already seasoned IT professionals at the time, just about everyone remembers the labours of the time, changing all those 2-digit years to 4-digit years, and a large helping of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that came with it.

Being a long-time UNIX geek, I also remember something else about that timeframe; the accelerated adoption of UNIX as an enterprise business computing environment. Updating older mainframe applications was one way to deal with Y2K; another was the implementation of net-new solutions. A common step for many businesses was the implementation of an ERP solution such as SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials or JD Edwards… and a common platform of choice was UNIX.

In the late 1997, for example, UNIX was just coming in to its own, LINUX still have the moniker of the new guy on the block, and the big two vendors in the business space were SUN and HP, with their SOLARIS and HP-UX offerings.

UNIX adoption was assisted by the fast growing adoption of an online presence.  Online services were a fast-growing trend of businesses that started realizing the potential of these servers to augment their traditional communication and interaction mechanisms; and as many of you will know – UNIX was (and is) a great choice for internet service provisioning.

Fast forward 15 years to today, 2012.  We no longer just talk about the number of homes with internet, we often do not even consider the concept of anything except high-speed connectivity.  Now we assume the public is “connected” and are quickly adopting a more “mobile” experience.  2011 saw 40% of the USA population having internet-connected smart phones, for example.

But now, back to the topic at hand… let’s look at UNIX in 2012.  Over the past 15 years, the adoption of UNIX has continued, even if the players have changed a little.  IBM arrived on the scene a  little over a decade ago and has grown to a dominant market player, Oracle bought SUN but has continued with the UNIX solutions, HP still has HP-UX, but has focused on the new enterprise player – Enterprise LINUX.

Over the same period, Windows has bloomed.  From a contender as a LAN File and Print server, to the dominant operating environment that is, for all intents and purposes, seen as the “standard” environment on which organizations run.

This upward pressure has helped settle Enterprise UNIX to an area where once only Mainframe’s played – the core database and business application infrastructure.  Providing very high stability and performance, the environments have become the strategic platforms of the enterprise.  Like Mainframes, they don’t pretend to be the only machine in the enterprise, but they do intend to be the most trusted.

OnX offers a Strategic Platform and Migration service to our customers. Strategic Platform being defined as the infrastructure platform on which enterprises will run their most important applications and databases; UNIX and LINUX platforms that are the core of a company’s business technology environment. UNIX does not have some special “secret formula”, but rather that it has focused on the enterprise for over a decade, and in doing so has matured to be the trusted solution it is today. Selecting a strategic platform is a critical decision not only because of the financial investments involved, but because of the risk of choosing a solution that does not meet the needs of your enterprise.

This story is far from over: enterprise virtualization continues to change the data centre, and cloud services will change IT infrastructure in much the same degree that SANs changed storage. An always-on computing model is advancing lock-step with the growth of the always-online smart-phone carrying public.

Enterprises will continue to demand more of the strategic platforms, and the enterprise technologies will be forced to keep pace, or be relegated to the IT history books.

David Roy, Principal Consultant, OnX Enterprise Solutions.