A UniForum White Paper

From UniForum, the International Association of Open Systems Professionals

Sponsored by Digital Equipment Corporation, Hewlett Packard Co., IBM, Pyramid Technology, SCO, Silicon Graphics Inc., SunSoft, Tandem Computers and Unisys.


Endorsed by Open Software Foundation, X/Open, and EurOpen

Unix: The Real Success Story

Your business requires flexibility, interoperability, and rapid response to change--requirements that proprietary systems were never designed to deliver. You're looking for more open alternatives to your mainframe and for more robust alternatives to your departmental systems. You want technology solutions that will give you seamless access to data, easy integration, rapid portability, and above all, a real competitive advantage.

Fortunately, such solutions are available today. Read on to hear what business users say about Unix and why it dominates the server and workstation marketplaces.

The Unix operating environment offers an alternative that puts you, not the vendor, in control of information technology decisions. The Unix alternative balances cooperative, open systems development with the advantages of a freely competitive market. With Unix, multiple vendors share an open architecture, but they compete on price, performance, and innovation. They earn the right to your business over and over again in the open market, rather than locking you into single-vendor solutions.

Unix is about choice: the freedom to choose the best hardware, the best operating system, and the best applications and development environments, and the freedom to change your mind when your business needs change. Users like choices--that's one reason why Unix installations are growing at nearly 18 percent per year in all multiuser environments, when industry growth as a whole is at just seven percent. As Janelle Hill, an information systems manager at MCI responsible for sales force technical support, says, "Moving to Unix has given us control over our own destiny."


What Open Really Means

There is one basic reason why Unix remains the premier enterprise operating system and the only operating system that can span your organization's computing needs from palmtops to massively parallel supercomputers: Unix is an open technology.

But it seems that every vendor now is claiming to be "open." Let's review what that word means to computing and why it's important.

Open means that the specification for a technology is published and freely available. No single vendor can control it. Anyone can use, develop, and improve the technology at any time, without permission from a vendor and with little or no capital investment. Many implementations of the specification evolve, and the input of multiple vendors is required to change the specification. In mature open technologies, conformance tests exist to certify that a specification is met. This model gives the user the ultimate flexibility and freedom of choice. If you are dissatisfied for any reason, or if a better product exists, it is a relatively trivial task to port applications to a competitive system.

In short, this market is characterized by users' ability to easily replace one vendor with another. Unix meets all of these criteria.

When a technology is truly open, it takes on a life of its own. Open technologies lead to a market characterized by rapid innovation and intense competition. Whereas a single company, no matter how large, can invest only a finite amount of money in research and development, open technologies benefit from a vast number of technologists, all working in a shared development environment that moves forward rapidly. We estimate that companies spend $1 billion annually on Unix research and development.

The World-Wide Web is one recent example of how open technologies can outperform single-vendor development. After only a few short years, the Web has become a mainstream communications tool. No single company could have afforded to launch the Web with as much success. The Web itself, of course, is built on the Internet, a fundamental open technology that has grown along with Unix.

Unix has enjoyed an open, cooperative development environment for over 25 years. As a result, it has become the most flexible, scalable, and robust operating system available today. And because Unix is open, it will continue to evolve more rapidly, and to provide better solutions to users, than any single-vendor operating system possibly can.

Unix Systems Provide Business Value

The first great benefit that Unix systems give you is the ability to replace one vendor with another, as your business needs change and as one vendor or another takes the lead in providing ground-breaking new value. No other operating system gives you that range
of flexibility.

"Open systems have made our vendors much more responsive," says Hugh Brownstone, vice president of new business development for IMS America, Ltd., a division of Dun & Bradstreet. "We're able to capitalize on a Darwinian environment. It's survival of the fittest. We win, because we are able to choose the best solution available in the market."

Competition for your business leads to technical excellence in Unix systems that is unmatched by any other operating system. Eager to differentiate their products from competitors, Unix suppliers have introduced innovations in user interfaces, application development tools, and systems and network management. The robustness of its core architecture has made Unix virtually the only alternative for companies wanting to run critical applications in a distributed environment. And many of the technologies that Unix has made possible in the scientific and engineering environments--such as object database management, three-dimensional graphics, simulation technologies, and virtual reality--are becoming increasingly important to commercial users.

Competition also means superior performance at lower prices. A better price/performance ratio has, for example, allowed IMS America to provide the kind of detailed point-of-sale market data that its client pharmaceutical companies demand. Three years ago, based on a mainframe, IMS America had to make do with wholesale data, which required much less computing power. "We've been running a 1.4 terabyte farm of Unix-based systems since 1993," says Brownstone. "We just couldn't afford to do that on a mainframe. Our documentable savings are in the tens of millions of dollars."

And competition means better service. "Our mainframe is long gone--we're running everything it takes to run a retail business on Unix systems," says Mike Prince, director of information services for Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse. "The fact that we can change vendors relatively easily means our vendors are anxious to be our partners and to provide the kind of support we need."

Distributed Computing Made Real

Why are businesses moving with confidence from their glass houses to Unix systems? Because Unix is the only operating system that can rival the security and reliability of mainframe systems, yet still offer the flexibility of an open environment. No other operating system alternative can match it--that's why Unix is the hands-down market leader in mainframe replacement.

"We needed more flexibility, more control, and more rapid response to our changing business needs," says Hill about MCI's decision to move its sales support functions from a mainframe to a Unix server. "Now I'm in complete control. If there's a problem in any area, I can fix it quickly, not ask someone else to do it for me, the way I needed to in the mainframe environment."

"We didn't want to be in the business of maintaining code. We wanted to take advantage of common, off-the-shelf software," says Jim McCann, vice president of internal information services for Northrup Grumman Corp., which over the last two years has replaced its mainframe with Unix-based business systems. "But these are applications that we run our business on day-to-day. We chose Unix to run them. Nothing else came close to providing the level of reliability we needed."

As organizations come down off centralized legacy systems, Unix offers the best architecture for distributed computing. By using X Window System communications and client/server protocols, you can decouple your desktop user interface from your application, so all or part of the application can run on your Unix server. That capability allows you to minimize investment in memory and storage at each desktop, while still running very powerful applications. By running applications centrally on Unix, you also eliminate desktop crashes of the application, as well as the need for decentralized (and expensive) support. X can run on multiple platforms, offering a complete range of choices for your desktop operating environment.

Unlike some desktop-centric systems, Unix enables you to partition the operating system, user interface, application, and database management system across a flexible architecture of two, three, or even more tiers, taking advantage of the capabilities of each platform in a customized fashion right for your business.

Because Unix vendors have operated in an extremely competitive market, they have developed the security, robustness, and ease of administration required for replacing mainframes. "Our downtime has not increased at all," says Dennis Courtney, vice president of business reengineering at Dunlop Tire Corp. Dunlop has moved critical applications such as payroll, purchasing, accounts payable, and general ledger to Unix servers, and plans to replace its mainframe entirely by 1997.

Scalable Systems for Every Need

Another reason that Unix has become the operating system of choice for distributed computing is its unrivaled scalability. Unix, in conjunction with massively parallel processing architectures and/or symmetric multiprocessing architectures, is at the heart of every interactive television trial in the world--an application that quickly exceeds even terabytes of data. Compared with this commercial application, most business applications will be managed by Unix with ease, at a price/performance point that far outdoes any other alternative. In addition, Unix companies were the first to have 64-bit computing, and their operating systems will lead the way into this advanced next generation of processing power.

"We were going to require a great deal of scalability in what we chose," says MCI's Hill, who is currently implementing a sales system that will support 5,000 simultaneous users on a single Unix server. "We were not comfortable that any alternative to Unix would scale up to support all 5,000 users. With Unix, we were very comfortable."

"We close 25 percent of all checks cleared in the U.S.," says Tsvi Gal, senior vice president of information technology for Bank of America. "For the volume of computing that Bank of America requires, no other operating system can scale as well. Unix is the name of the game in non-mainframe-oriented computing."

What's more, as well as being highly scalable, fault-tolerant Unix clusters offer mainframe-class reliability. And as departmental networks increasingly are used as gateways to wide-area networks and the Internet, Unix becomes the most secure choice for even small installations.

Unix runs on more hardware platforms than any other operating system: from hand-held devices to supercomputers, on all flavors of CPU. Companies are able to take advantage of that scalability by choosing the best applications for their needs, by making downsizing a reality, and by deploying the best hardware architectures for their business.

Making Networks Interoperate

Arnie Schapiro, director of information systems at Orchard Supply Hardware Stores, became a believer in open systems after his supplier of proprietary point-of-sale equipment announced that it would discontinue support. "After that, I was sold on the advantages of open systems," he says. "With Unix, we have freedom of choice and aren't locked into one supplier any more."

In addition to freedom of choice, Schapiro also wanted to make use of Unix's advanced networking. "Unix network utilities made our network easy to administer," he says. "The utilities that come with Unix aren't there with other operating systems."

It's no accident that Unix provides the richest networking capabilities or that Unix is the preferred environment for companies interested in seamlessly connecting systems and networks. From the beginning, the Unix community has been defined by its commitment to interoperability, a commitment that has made Unix the launch point for all significant enterprise network technologies in the last 20 years. Here's a short list of contributions from the Unix community that have become industry standards and make interoperability a reality for users:

It's easy to forget that network interoperability used to be impossible unless you bought everything from a single vendor. Unix was the first operating system with which users could take a computer out of a box and, without worrying about its architecture or hardware configuration, plug it into an Ethernet network and have it communicate immediately with other devices.

When given the choice, users overwhelmingly choose the open systems alternative over proprietary network solutions. That's why TCP/IP, designed and adopted as the Internet communications protocol in 1983, has become the glue that holds enterprise systems together. It has played an indispensable role in the Internet's dramatic growth. And that's why purveyors of single-vendor solutions have begun to ship their products with TCP/IP stacks.

The X Window System
In keeping with the commitment to choice, the Unix community has acknowledged, through its shared development work, users' freedom to choose other operating systems when appropriate. For example, using X, a sophisticated windowing system developed and overseen by a nonprofit, vendor-neutral consortium, you can easily connect diverse laptops, terminals, and desktop computers to Unix servers, making network-wide interoperability a reality.

The Unix community has recognized that, if distributed networks are going to succeed, users will need a simple way to manage these networks from a central location, as well as a simple way to communicate via electronic mail across diverse networks. The Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP), spearheaded by the Unix community, provide solutions that have become industry standards.

C and C++
The Unix community embraced these common development languages as a way to assure interoperability among different kinds of computers; these languages have since become standard environments for other operating systems. User benefits include faster application development, easily portable applications, and reduced development costs.

The World-Wide Web
Originally developed by the Unix community, this graphical Internet environment has been extended to other operating systems and has become one of the most successful and most rapidly deployed network communications tools ever created.

With its tradition of open, shared development, Unix has become the core environment for new network and interoperability advances. As these advances are accepted in the market, vendors of all stripes feel compelled to provide at least a gateway to the open alternative. The open solution then becomes the common language for the enterprise network and beyond. Because of open systems, at last you have the power to demand--and receive--interoperability among diverse systems.

A Word About Standards

In the past, the Unix community has been criticized by analysts and users alike for not providing a single set of standards for all Unix operating systems. But standards bodies fail whenever they attempt to rein in competitive forces and whenever they attempt to define for users what your needs should be. Standards should not be used to build the car, only to give us the rules of the road. If vendors were forced to conform fully to a single standard rather than be allowed to differentiate their product, users would suffer--Unix would become, in essence, as limited as any single-vendor product.

The real goal of Unix standards bodies is to define for users and vendors what a baseline, commodity Unix operating system should look like. Standards assure you that Unix systems are interoperable and that applications are readily portable. But they also allow for the innovation and technical excellence that a competitive, open development environment brings.

Unix systems already offer more interoperability and portability than any other operating system environment. Common networking and systems management protocols allow you to mix and match multiple Unix systems with ease. Porting applications from one Unix flavor to another takes a matter of days, rather than the months or years it takes to rewrite code from one completely different operating environment to another.

And the Unix industry is moving forward rapidly to make interoperability and portability even easier for you. The Single Unix Specification, administered by the vendor-neutral X/Open Co. Ltd. and formerly known as Spec 1170 for the number of application programming interfaces it includes, defines for operating systems vendors and application developers alike what commodity Unix is. The X/Open Unix Brand is the buyer's guarantee that a supplier's product conforms to the Single Unix specification. Today, 22 products from 16 suppliers carry the X/Open Unix Brand of compliance.

By developing or buying applications that take advantage of the interfaces in the Single Unix Specification, you are guaranteed seamless portability from one operating system to another. But the Single Unix Specification does not mean that you must buy low-level standardized products. Purchasing systems and applications that utilize the Single Unix Specification not only provides you with portable, interoperable products but allows you to take advantage of many feature-rich extensions offered by the various Unix suppliers. You gain access to the latest technology within a standards-conforming environment where vendors can successfully differentiate their products. In short, state-of-the-art technology can and does sit on top of the space in which products comply with the Single Unix Specification.

In this manner, the Unix industry again offers you the power to choose. And because of this industry's thriving community of shared development, even standards-compliant Unix will continue to outstrip the innovations introduced in single-vendor markets.

Unix Is About Choice

One operating system has made distributed computing a reality. One operating system is making new forms of interactive entertainment a reality and is leading the way in new engineering and business applications.

That's Unix.

But Unix is more than all those things. Mostly, Unix is about giving you the freedom to choose the best applications and development environments, the best networking alternatives, the best hardware to meet your business needs. Unix gives you the choice of when to upgrade your systems, or even when to change your mind and install new solutions with a minimum of pain, should your business demand it.

The Unix industry is dedicated to keeping the power of choice where it belongs: with you, the user.

Figure 1:
Unix and Overall Multiuser Markets, 1994

 Total multiuser systems Unix all operating systems
 Units 83,962  153,551
 Growth rate/units 17.6% 7%
 Value  $6.3 billion $19.7 billion
 Growth rate/value 23.5% -8.6%
A multiuser system is any installation with more than one device attached; this includes everything but individual PCs and workstations. Source: International Data Corp.


"We win, because we are able to choose the best solution available in the market."
Hugh Brownstone,
Vice President Of New Business Development,
IMS America, Ltd.

"For the volume of computing that Bank of America requires, no other operating system can scale as well."
Tsvi Gal,
Senior Vice President Of Information Technology,
Bank of America

UniForum Corporate Sponsors are vendor and end-user organizations that support the mission of UniForum and actively participate in its programs.

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The UniForum White Paper, "Unix: The Real Success Story," is copyright 1995 by UniForum, all rights reserved.
UNIX is a registered trademark licensed exclusively by X/Open Co. Ltd., in the United States and other countries.

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