Did Linux Kill Commercial Unix?

Red Hat logo at the company's offices in Silicon Valley.Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

Commercial Unix sales have fallen off a cliff. There must be something behind this dramatic decline. Did Linux kill its ancestor by becoming a perfectly viable substitute, such as an operating system version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

The beginning of Unix

The first version of Unix took place fifty years ago in 1969, at Bell Labs, a research and development company owned by AT & T. Happy birthday, Unix. In fact, at the time, it was still called Unics, meaning UNIplexed Information and Computing Service. Apparently, no one remembers the date on which the "cs" became an "x". Computer DEC PDP / 7, in December assembly language.

Within Bell, it was necessary to produce patent applications by composition. The Unix development team has identified this need as an opportunity to get their hands on the new, more powerful DEC. PDP / 11/20 computerso they quickly created a composition program to generate patent applications. After that, the use of Unix has stopped growing at Bell.

In 1973, version 4 of Unix was released, rewritten in Programming language C. The introduction to the accompanying manual stated: "The number of UNIX installations now exceeds 20 and we expect many more." (K. Thompson and DM Richie, The UNIX Programmer's Manual, 4th ed., November 1973) .

How little did they know! In 1973 Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, two of the main Unix architects, presented a paper at a conference on Unix. Immediately, they received requests for copies of the operating system.

Because of one consent decree concluded with the US Government in 1956, AT & T was to remain outside of "any activity other than the provision of communication services by public operator". The result of this operation was to be able to obtain a license for Bell Labs products. The Unix operating system was therefore distributed in source code with a license and costs covering shipping and packaging and a "reasonable fee".

Because AT & T could not treat Unix as a product and did not put the usual recap, Unix did not receive any commercialization. He came without support and without bug fixes. Despite this, Unix has spread to universities, military applications and ultimately the commercial world.

Because Unix had been rewritten in the C programming language, it was relatively easy to transfer it to new computer architectures, and soon Unix was running on all kinds of hardware. It was outside the boundaries of the DEC product line and could now work almost anywhere.

The rise of commercial Unix

In 1982, following another decree of authorization, AT & T was forced to relinquish control of Bell and Bell was split into several smaller regional companies. This upheaval released AT & T from some of their previous restrictions. They were now able to officially produce Unix. In 1983, license fees were increased and support and maintenance are finally available.

It is this commercialization that triggered Richard Stallman to create the GNU Project, aiming to write a version of Unix totally free from AT & T source code. Happy birthday, GNU Project, 36 years old this year.

Of course, those who already had Unix source code under the previous software license could keep this version. They have modified, expanded and corrected themselves or with the help of one of the Unix user communities that had been created as technical assistance groups in the United States. lack of support from AT & T.

IBM, HP, Sun, Silicon Graphicsand many other hardware vendors had their own Unix commercial version or a Unix-like operating system.

Unix has gradually become the ideal operating system for critical workloads in markets such as healthcare and banking. Unix has been found to power mainframes and minicomputers in the premises of manufacturers of aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding, and universities around the world have widely adopted.

Unix installations skyrocket when versions are worn on personal computers, especially when the most powerful Intel 80386 processor was released in 1985. Unix was now available on mainframes, minicomputers and personal computers – if you paid the price.

Unix wars

The late eighties and early nineties were marked by a long and difficult struggle for domination and normalization between various flavors of Unix. Clearly, all stakeholders wanted to be considered the absolute reference. Finally, the standards themselves were introduced to try to solve compatibility problems.

This led to the Unique UNIX specification (which also includes the POSIX standard). The capital word "UNIX" is now a trademark of Open Group. It is reserved for operating systems that comply with the UNIX Single Specification. Thus, "UNIX" is a trademark and "Unix" refers to a family of operating systems, some of which may be called UNIX.

This is a very condensed summary of a period that has probably caused more confusion to the potential buyer of Unix than looking back. Needless to say, if customers do not know what to buy, they expect to watch developments. Sales slowed down considerably.

It was a self-inflicted injury to trade Unix, but it was not lethal.

Happy birthday, Linux

Linux was 28 in August 2019. Happy birthday, Linux. In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a Finnish computer science student, made his famous ad that he was working on an operating system kernel as a hobby. His motivation was to learn 386 processor architecture.

Richard Stallman's GNU project had written many elements of a Unix-like operating system, but their core, the GNU Hurd, was not – and still is not – ready for publication. Linus Torvald's Linux kernel bridged that gap.

With the Linux kernel and the tools and utilities of the GNU operating system, a fully functioning operating system, similar to Unix, was born. Purists will refer to this as GNU / LinuxThe rest of us use the abbreviated version "Linux". As long as we appreciate, respect and recognize the contributions made by both sides, we are happy in both cases.

Since 1991, the capacity, the completeness and the stability of Linux keep increasing. It is now found in an impressive number of use cases and different products.

The oldest distribution that is still maintained is Slackware. It was published in 1993. It is based on an earlier distribution called Softlanding Linux System, which was published the previous year. Slackware tries to be the most Unix-like of the many Linux distributions available. It's great to see it continue, with a healthy community and dedicated maintainers.

Slackware command prompt na terminal windowSlackware Linux, alive and well in 2019

The rise of Linux

The lure of a free Unix-like operating system, coupled with access to source code, has proven to be a compelling message. Linux is everywhere.

He runs the web. W3Techs reports that Linux is used on 70% of the 10 million Alexa areas.
It runs the public cloud. Sure Amazon EC2, Linux represents 92% of the servers, with more than 350,000 individual instances.
It uses the fastest computers in the world. The world's 500 fastest supercomputers are under Linux.
It goes in the space. the Falcon 9 The flight computers of the rocket run under Linux.
It's in your pocket. In the heart of Google Android is a Linux kernel. There is more of 2.5 billion active Android devices. This includes Chromebooks and other devices. (And at the heart of Apple's concerns iOS This code comes directly from the Unix variant developed at the University of California, Berkeley, called Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). Thus, whatever the preferences of your smartphone, they both rely on elements of Unix-like operating systems.)
It feeds your smarthome. Do you have a smart gadget at home? It almost certainly works on embedded Linux.
He manages your network. The majority of managed switches, wireless access points, and routers run on integrated Linux.
It feeds your telecom. Do you have a VoIP phone on your desk or a telephone switch in the communication room? They probably use integrated Linux.
This is inside your computer. Even if you do not run a Linux desktop, Microsoft is including a Linux kernel in version 2.0 of Windows 10 Subsystem for Windows 10 for Linux.
It's inside the vehicles. Tesla (and other automakers) use Linux in their vehicles.

RELATED, RELATED, RELATED: Windows 10 becomes an integrated Linux kernel

Anywhere else on the PC desktop, Linux dominates. And even Microsoft is launching into the Linux world from its bastion of computers with the Windows subsystem for Linux.

But the purpose of this discussion is Unix and Linux, not Linux and Windows. And the bottom line is that everywhere Unix was, Linux is now. And Linux is a place where Unix has never been. Like in smart TVs. Linux is everywhere.

IBM is one of the last holders of commercial Unix, with its AIX offerings. And even IBM adopts Linux, at the height of $ 34 billion. This is a tremendous embrace: $ 34 billion for what is actually a commercial Linux and a direct competitor of its internal offer. Interestingly, the fastest of the 500 supercomputers is an IBM system, and it runs Red Hat Enterprise Linux, not AIX.

Is Linux better than Unix?

No. It's (more or less) the same thing, but it has advantages like being able to run on pretty much anything from supercomputers to Udder with raspberry. You can get the source code, there is a passionate network of users and maintainers, and it's available for free.

If you want commercial support, there is also an offer from Red Hat, Canonical and Oracle. And this was a critical point in Linux's ability to replace Unix from some companies because many of them did not trust "free." The advent of Linux has not been assumed that Linux is freely available. Linux commercial helped beat Unix commercial.

Is Linux more successful than Unix? Well, set the success. If having a more diversified and widespread use than any other operating system is a metric, then yes. If it's the highest number of devices running the operating system, then yes.

There was one question I could not find an answer to: was the sale of Red Hat for $ 34 billion greater than the amount of money that all Sun, HP, Silicon Graphics, and other commercial licenses accumulated during the lifetime of Unix advertising at the pinnacle? Maybe Linux is also gaining commercial success in one transaction.

Did Linux kill Unix?

Yes, Linux killed Unix. Or, more precisely, Linux has stopped Unix in its momentum, then jumped in his skin.

Unix still exists, it runs critical systems that work properly and stably. This will continue until support for applications, operating systems, or the hardware platform ceases. If something is really essential to the mission and it works, you let it work. I guess someone, somewhere, will always run a UNIX or UNIX trading system.

But for new installations? There are enough variations of Linux to justify the choice of a very, very difficult commercial Unix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.