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What is Unix's share of and role in modern data centers?

There's no denying that the Unix party is winding down, but just how quickly are guests leaving? What is Unix going to look like in five years?

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Modern Infrastructure: Can Microsoft's Azure platform lift the company's cloud hopes?

The 40-year-old Unix OS has had brushes with death, but may have found its niche in the modern world.

Scale-up systems based on the Unix operating system and its accompanying RISC processors enjoyed a long and heady heyday, first as the undisputed king of enterprise and even high-end workstations, then as the original engine of the Internet and the Web.

Those were good times. So what is Unix's role today?

A healthy chunk of mission-critical enterprise apps still run on a Unix platform, but there's no denying that the party's coming to an end. A good chunk of Unix shops have already left, or are at least gathering their things and saying goodbye.

Still, there are plenty of hearty souls sticking around, for reasons peculiar to their organization and applications. Will they keep the party going?

The Unix server market

No one's arguing that the Unix OS is in decline. That fact is painfully clear to anyone who listens to market research. The worldwide Unix server market stood at $9.1 billion in 2012, down 48% from its perch of $17.6 billion in 2003, according to market research firm International Data Corp.

But where things go from here is less certain. While the Unix market fell precipitously during the 2009 recession, IDC projects that Unix customer revenue -- factory revenue plus "channel uplift" -- will drop in dribs and drabs, from $10.2b in 2012 to $8.7b by 2017.

"The Unix market contracts, but there will always be this core audience, kind of like the mainframe," said Jean Bozman, IDC research vice president for enterprise servers.

And while the market may not be what it once was, the Unix industry is still nothing to sneeze at.

"Yes, there's a change, but there's still a lot of money," said Richard Fichera, vice president at Forrester Research. "So what if the market declines 10%? It's still a $10 billion industry."

Further, the margins on pricey Unix systems are much higher than they are on commodity x86 systems, he pointed out, which should guarantee continued investment and new systems for years to come.

This was last published in October 2013

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I am confused. Linux is not Unix?
What is Android? I am sure that Android will eat all others. Sooner or later.
Stupid article. I understand the author is probably referring to specific old unix systems such as sunos, convex, bsd, etc..

OSX and Linux are in my books and most people's books unix, and hey freebsd and derivatives are everywhere, you just dont know it.
wow. In one fell swoop, you managed to reduce not only your credibility but that of and Modern Infrastructure Digest. From the unsubstantiated ad hominem statements regarding UNIX to the apparent lack of fundamental understanding about what actually constitutes UNIX.

The only thing that's painfully clear here is that the bar has sunk rather low for this site not only in terms of what writing it accepts, but also in terms of the requirements must have for an Editor-in-Chief of one of their publications.

Readers would be well-advised to avoid this site and its advertisers and look instead to somewhere with not only balanced reportage but marginally qualified editorial staff.
A completely bizarre article. Apart from anything else, the author does not say where the users are migrating to, from 'Unix'.
Probably one of the worst articles I have seen on this site. Unix plays a pivotal role in most data centers, especially with regards to DR and continued Enterprised Services. Most backbones rely heavily on Unix-based applications and OS....yeah not a good article here.
As a MCSE since '99 I can say that M$ is a steaming pile of dog turd. However my first unix Job a world renound enterprise ticketing system that even licensed awk from AT&T Bell Labs to make their proprietary report generation language (snawk) dropped it all for .Net :( It all comes down to IT managers being straight out of dlibert cartoons. The company I said before even hired McKinsey and Co that gave it 5 stars verses the compeditors and they still dumped Unix. Backhanded tactics me thinks.
Not buying new right now equals no longer using?
It is unclear whether the article author, Forrester Research or any other technology analysis firm has calculated the *BSD UNIX-like operating Systems (OS) in the UNIX category, since these spectacular OS are actually gaining enterprise use recently.

To wit, Netflix just deployed thousands of FreeBSD based serer appliances to the major Internet network couriers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others for more efficient and faster streaming of millions of movies to subscribers each week.
Juniper Networks network and products infrastructure is BSD based.

This aspect of "UNIX" use, whether in decline or not, should be quantified.
Was this article sponsored by Microsoft? Many of IT's "non-technical" management people would lump Linux & BSD and UNIX as one, and since Linux/BSD is not declining (Microsoft claimed in 2008 that Linux ran on 60% of all servers vs 40% for MS, and in 2012 Linux accounted for over 20% of revenues, although that's skewed because most servers come with an MS license even though the end user installs something with Linux, like any virtualization stack except for Hyper-V, and over 90% of smartphones run some form of *nix based OS), I can only surmise this article is trying to damage the reputation of *nix based operating systems.

Considering this article is tied to a larger Azure-promoting article, it's certainly curious...


Unix is actually now the dominant OS by many millions, considering that IOS is actually OS X at its core- completely Unix and posix compliant. All the iPads, iPhones, and whatever new devices apple comes out with will be running Unix.

From a server "sales" perspective it would be great to see some numbers but that far from chronicles the end of Unix itself.

And hey, the unix model isn't perfect. It's got a lot of weaknesses. But its advantages outweigh, including size (size matters- especially on portable devices) and ability to customize. I wager most of the firmware based systems such as switches and certainly virtual appliances are unix based.

It could be correct that there is some declining purchases of unix, but on a very very small segment of the computing market.
Did someone fail to notice that linux == unix? That apple runs unix too? That android is also == unix? Did MS sponsor this article? I did see an Azure ad lurking around... Didn't you guys say you were a research firm?!? Uh... someone needs to pay more attention, unix is the only thing going in any real sense... between linux and apple products along it's a full on takeover... please keep up.
The Death of Unix is much like the death of Unix has been predicted for years but they still run the world.
Take out Unix , Apple , Android and what do you have left - except for Microsoft which can't run anything that is important , let alone critical at any level.
We have truth as we beleive in christ who saith "fellowship one with another" we know to kove him more than mother or brother for he said he whi loves mother or brother more than me is not worthy of me. He said give unto ceaser what is ceasers. With the unix system if interpretations is that of the fcc homeland security pact so give unto ceaser what is ceasers. Love god with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul. Peace always be with you.
Since there has been a significant increase in the adoption on BSD UNIX-like Operating Systems (OS) - to wit, Netflix, Verisign, Fujitsu, Sony and many USA and International Universities, neither Forrester, IDC or any reporting from Tech Target has defined whether this particular System software is classified as a UNIX, something else similar and what statistics have been gathered in respect to it's adoption rate and $dollar sales market, both in USA or on international scale, since the country of Brazil, as an example, has substantial adoption rates for FreeBSD in all facets of government, education, and in businesses sector.
Just a heads up -- this is part one of a four part article. You might want to check out the rest of it before dismissing it entirely.

And to all of you who point out that Unix is at the heart of FreeBSD, iOS, Android, etc., I hear where you're coming from, but that really isn't the market segment I was trying to address.