March 16, 2001, 2:56 PM —
Unix is one of the IT world's few living legends. It has been in continuous use since its birth in 1969, and its storied past is like that of a nation: Inept rulers brought it to the brink of ruin, a dictator was deposed by a public rebellion, coalitions were made and dissolved, party loyalists inflamed passions by defecting to the other side and, for a time, anarchy reigned. For corporations, Unix's journey through adolescence was anything but fun.
Corporate users rode out Unix's growing pains, in part by ignoring vendor pleas to install every new OS upgrade. Unix is no fire-and-forget endeavor. It takes months to tweak out a Unix server for optimal performance and stability. But once you find that elusive combination of hardware, OS version, and patches, you leave it alone. Unix has endured because, when it is tuned, a Unix box is a magnificent beast. It seems able to shoulder any load, and it'll run and run until something melts.
Many believe that Linux hurt commercial Unix by doing for free what expensive operating systems had done for years. That's sadly true for SCO and SGI, but IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard have thrived in the Unix renaissance brought about by Linux. Using Linux as a teaching tool, universities are once again graduating Unix-literate administrators and developers. Linux knowledge isn't directly applicable to enterprise Unix systems, but Linux experience creates a solid foundation for enterprise training as well as an understanding of why Linux has not replaced Unix. Commercial Unix development, particularly bug fixes and enhancements, is spurred ahead by the knowledge that an entire product line, even an entire company, rides on the OS.
Our snapshots look at six commercial Unix variants, giving you an idea of where each is and where each is headed. We looked at how well the variants work with a set of 10 corporate applications: Oracle 8i database, IBM WebSphere Application Server, Adobe FrameMaker 6, iPlanet Enterprise Web Server, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Sybase ASE, Lotus Domino, ChiliSoft ASP, Vitria BusinessWare, and SAP. The application score shows how many of the sets each OS supports.
Finally, we gave each an overall score to illustrate how healthy each is for work in the enterprise. The score depicts each variant's outlook, based on the pace of new development, software portability, quality of documentation and support, and market position.