If you're among those who predict the imminent demise of Unix, you might want to reconsider. Computerworld's 2009 Unix survey of IT executives and managers, conducted online in March and April, tells a different story: While demand appears to be down from our 2003 survey on Unix use, the OS is clearly still going strong.

Of the 211 respondents, 130 (62 percent) reported using Unix in their organisations. (Most survey responses are based on input from the latter.)

Of the respondents whose companies use Unix, 69 percent indicated that their organisations are "extremely reliant" or "very reliant" on Unix, with another 21 percent portraying their organisations as "somewhat reliant" on Unix. 10 percent responded that they were not very reliant or not at all reliant on Unix as an OS.

Applications and reliability/scalability (64 percent and 51 percent, respectively) take the lion's share as drivers for organisational reliance on Unix, with about one-fourth of the survey base pointing to cost considerations, hardware vendors, ease of application integration/development and interoperability as other drivers. Other reasons for reliance included:

* Uptime
* Security, networking, availability of open-source app and systems packages
* Primary customer is a Unix OEM
* Less security risks, no virus, more ROI on installed capacity owned
* Legacy applications with historical data
* It's not Microsoft
* It just works
* Customer preference
* Bound by application developer

AIX was the most commonly reported flavour of Unix used by the survey base (42 percent), followed by Solaris/SPARC (39 percent), HP-UX (25 percent), Solaris/x86 (22 percent), Other Unix flavours/versions (19 percent), Mac OS X Server (12 percent) and OpenSolaris (10 percent).

Of the 19 percent who selected other Unix flavours, most specified some kind of Linux. When asked if they used other Unix-like OSes, 80 percent said yes and almost all indicated some version of Linux. (So, you might ask, is Linux a flavour of Unix or a Unix-like OS? See "Just what is Unix, anyway?" for thoughts on that question.)

Unix's role in the future

Almost half (47 percent) see Unix in 5 years as "an essential operating system with continued widespread deployment." One-third of the survey respondents selected the prediction that while not essential in 5 years Unix will still be important in some vertical market sectors. Just 11 percent selected predictions of migration and 5 percent envision it fading away.

When asked to select a statement describing their Unix strategy, more than half underlined the importance of Unix by selecting "Unix is an essential platform for us and will remain so indefinitely" (42 percent) or "We are increasing our use of Unix" (15 percent). Another 18 percent described Unix's role as shrinking, but not disappearing. 17 percent pointed to plans to migrate away from Unix.

Of those who said they were planning on migrating away from Unix, cost was the number one reason, followed by server consolidation, skills shortage and applications.

Survey results

Survey conducted March 31 - April 20, 2009; there were 211 responses.
Numbers may not add up to 100, due to rounding.

Does your organisation use Unix?
Yes: 62 percent
No: 35 percent
Don't know: 4 percent
Base: 211 respondents

What versions of Unix are currently in use by your company? (choose all that apply)
AIX: 42 percent
Solaris/SPARC: 39 percent
HP-UX: 25 percent
Solaris/x86: 22 percent
Other Unix flavours/versions: 19 percent

* Linux: 13 percent
* FreeBSD: < 1 percent
* IRIX: < 1 percent
* Older DEC Unix: < 1 percent
* Unknown: < 1 percent

Mac OS X Server: 12 percent
OpenSolaris: 10 percent
HP Tru64 Unix: 5 percent
SCO UnixWare: 5 percent
SCO OpenServer: 2 percent
Base: 130 respondents who said their companies use Unix

How reliant is your company on Unix as an operating system?
Extremely reliant: 35 percent
Very reliant: 34 percent
Somewhat reliant: 21 percent
Not very reliant: 5 percent
Not at all reliant: 5 percent
Base: 130 respondents who said their companies use Unix

What drives your company's reliance on Unix? (choose all that apply)
Applications: 64 percent
Reliability/scalability: 51 percent
Cost considerations: 37 percent
Hardware vendor: 26 percent
Ease of application integration/development: 25 percent
Interoperability: 22 percent
Other: 7 percent
We are not reliant on Unix as an OS: 6 percent
Base: 130 respondents who said their companies use Unix

Does your organisation use Unix-like OSes?
Yes (choose all that apply): 80 percent

* Linux: 80 percent
* Mac OS X: < 1 percent
* GNU: < 1 percent
* FreeBSD: < 1 percent
* VMware ESX: < 1 percent

No: 17 percent
Don't know: 3 percent
Base: 130 respondents who said their companies use Unix

Which of the following best describes your Unix strategy?
Unix is an essential platform for us and will remain so indefinitely: 42 percent
Unix's role in our enterprise will shrink but it won't disappear: 18 percent
We are increasing our use of Unix: 15 percent
We expect to migrate away from Unix in the future: 12 percent
None of the above: 8 percent
We have already implemented a plan to migrate away from Unix: 5 percent
Other: 2 percent
Base: 130 respondents who said their companies use Unix

Of the small minority who indicated that their companies had plans to migrate away from Unix, the top 5 reasons given were:

* Cost
* Server consolidation
* Skills shortage
* Applications
* Other OS offers tighter integration with my apps

Which of the following best describes your vision of where Unix will be in five years?
It will be an essential operating system with continued widespread deployment: 47 percent
It will be important in some vertical market sectors, but it will not be considered an essential operating environment for most companies: 35 percent
It will generally be seen as a legacy system warranting a non-Unix migration path: 11 percent
Unix, as well as other operating systems, will fade in importance as we go to hosted (cloud, software-as-service, etc.) systems: 5 percent
None of the above: 2 percent
Other: 1 percent
Base: 130 respondents who said their companies use Unix


The Computerworld survey on the future of Unix and enterprise Unix usage was administered online in March and April 2009.

This survey was fielded among Computerworld's Inner Circle Research Panel. 211 results are based on the qualified responses of those panel members who reported currently employing Unix in their organisations.

Of the 211 respondents, 130 reported the use of Unix in their organisations. Most survey responses are based on the input from the latter. (Not all respondents answered all questions.) For the purposes of this survey, "Unix" refers to any non-open-source version.


35 percent of the survey respondents indicated that they held executive IT titles, another 16 percent said they were IT managers, and 13 percent hold executive business titles. 36 percent said they were IT/IS technology staffers.

Primary industries represented by respondents in this survey are:

* IT/computer-related services/consulting: 21 percent
* Education: 9 percent
* Manufacturing (non-computer-related): 9 percent

When asked about total 2008 revenue company revenue, 44 percent indicated annual company revenue of up to US$100 million. 16 percent reported revenue between $101 million and $999 million. 41 percent said their companies had revenues of $1 billion or greater.

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