The future of Unix Part 3: IBM's view

Ian Yates' interview series on the future of Unix concludes with IBMs Phil MacLochlainn.

In these interviews, TechTarget ANZ's Ian Yates speak with analyst Kevin McIsaac from IBRS, Sun Microsystems' Laurie Wong and IBM's Phil MacLochlainn. The hypothetical is the death of Unix at the hands of Linux.

PREVIOUSLY: Sun's view

Ian Yates (IY): IBM is a major Unix player, so let's ask IBM's Phil MacLochlainn if Unix already dead?

Phil MacLouchlainn (PM): I think that the kind of rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated not unlike the rumors of the death of the mainframe. If I look at the IDC numbers and look at the Unix market segment, it's about thirty percent of the overall server market. It accounts for about seventeen billion dollars. If I add Linux to that which is about seven and a half billion dollars, that total is greater or equivalent to the total Windows spend on servers. At thirty percent Unix continues to be a fairly vibrant market for the three main vendors.

IY: Which is Sun Solaris, IBM AIX and HP UX yes?

PM: Yes.

IY: But HP is a way distant third in that one isn't it? Basically the market belongs to you guys and Sun doesn't it?

PM: If I look at the worldwide revenue figures I think that it's reasonably close. IBM is the number one Unix vendor with about thirty two percent and I think that HP and Sun are fairly close in the high twenties. If you looked at the number of units I presume that HP might not be doing quite so well when compared to Sun but I think Sun and HP are reasonably close. Both certainly in the high twenties.

IY: And of course, now I read a recent agreement where IBM's blade servers based on the x86 platform are going to have the ability to run Solaris?

PM: Sun's situation with Solaris is interesting in that they have ported it to AMD Opteron microprocessors some time ago and we have clients that have expressed an interest in running Solaris on blades and I think the statement is that we are certifying the product to run with Solaris.

IY: So according to your understanding of the game, it is a long time yet before we will see the death of Unix - if ever.

PM: I think so. Based on if we look at the road maps that each of the main vendors have and certainly if we look at IBM's road map, first of all we've delivered according to our road map for the last five or six years. We were the first to introduce dual core microprocessors in 2001. We have now reached a fifth iteration of this dual core architecture with Power Six, which we just announced and there are very solid plans for Power Six Plus and Power Seven going forward into the future. So the investment continues to be there and I think the markets, particularly the high-end Unix market, continues to be very strong. I think the continued performance of the Unix market is probably a function of the robustness of the enterprise Unix platforms and the operating systems. But also some of the high-end capabilities that have been brought to the market now with these Unix platforms and particularly if we look at System P, I think some of the flexibility that can be accrued through the use of advanced virtualisation is really significant and I think it will continue to encourage people and customers to buy Unix systems and to deploy critical applications onto the Unix platform for some time to come.

IY: So it sounds like the prediction of the demise of Unix is about as accurate about the predictions of the demise of the mainframes which never really went away, they just shrunk themselves into a filing cabinet and kept pumping away in the corner.

PM: Yeah they continue and again if we look at the IDC numbers, the servers valued at greater than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, of which the mainframe is a significant component of that market, is one of the fastest growing segments in the server market. Clearly the mainframe continues to be a very solid performer and continues to exhibit growth.

This interview is also featured on Ian's weekly podcast A Series of Tubes.

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