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Making the business case for migrating from Unix to Linux

Learn how to present the business case for making a Unix to Linux migration. What are the shortcomings of Unix and what are the advantages of Linux? Vendor lock-in, cost, ease of updates or patches, and human capital are compared between Unix and Linux.

Editor's note: This is the first part in a series of articles on Unix-to-Linux migrations that will be featured on

When migrating from Unix to Linux, the most important case you will need to make is not a technical case but a business case. It's all about the bottom line. How will the business benefit by moving over? What is the total cost of ownership and return on investment for the migration?

The tricky part is choosing the methods you use to extrapolate this information and build your case. A Unix-to-Linux migration may seem like a no-brainer to data center managers, but the people you need to convince don't work in the data center. So you need to succeed in justifying your case.

It's a given in today's economic climate: You simply will not be able to embark on a major migration project without that business case. As part of building your case, you'll need to discuss the limitations of Unix and the features of Linux. You'll also need to elaborate on the justifications for migration and the actual cost of the project. Again, it should all relate to the bottom line.

Unix Challenges and Limitations
Unquestionably, Unix is a mature OS, much more so than Linux. The top Unix versions today are AIX, Solaris and HP-UX. So why would you even want to consider moving to Linux? There are lots of reasons. Here are a few:

  • Vendor lock-in: You've been running Solaris for 10 years now and are happy with the OS but not with Sun Microsystems' hardware and would prefer to run it on IBM Power Systems. Forget it. If you're running Solaris, you have to stay on Sun hardware unless you want to run Solaris on x86 machines. Similar stories if you prefer AIX or HP-UX.
  • Cost: Linux is not really free, but there is no doubt you will pay more to a Unix vendor. Don't look at the license costs alone. Look at the whole package -- the cost of the OS maintenance, hardware and ancillary software licenses. You will find everything costs just a little bit more for Unix than Linux.
  • Fixes, patches and more: With Unix, you are generally held hostage by your vendor's timetable for releasing that patch or fix. Do you have a crackerjack engineering department that would like to do some work on the kernel? If you're running Unix, forget it.
  • Human capital: Linux administrators earn substantially less than their Unix counterparts. As a systems person I may not be happy about this, but that is the reality. Smart business analysts understand this and factor this cost into the equation.

And have you checked the latest Gartner Inc. reports? Unix continues to decrease in overall market share, while Linux is constantly gaining market share. Don't minimize the importance of that. Everyone watches those numbers, from ISVs to hardware manufacturers to end users. Why do you think hardware vendors like IBM support Linux on their platforms? Is it because they love the competition? No. It's because even though they may love their versions of Unix, they recognize that the future is with Linux.

The next part in the series deals with what makes a migration from Unix to Linux attractive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Milberg is the President and Managing consultant of PowerTCO (formerly known as Unix-Linux Solutions), a NY-based IBM Business Partner. He is a technology writer and site expert for and provides Linux technical information and support at

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