“Unix is alive, healthy, and growing…”

Tony Baines,
Director (Strategic Marketing), SCO.

Is the world really leaving Unix
for NT?

"No way," says Tony Baines, SCO’s UK-based Director of Strategic Marketing. Unix
has come up with "renewed confidence", as corporates rediscover the basic
robustness and stability of an OS that you don’t have to "reboot and restart all the
time." "The Internet and Unix have done a lot for each other," he says.
"All the Internet standards like TCP/IP that we’re using today are from there. And
there’s reliability. How many times can you afford to reboot the Internet? A phone
network? How would you feel if your phone told you `the application is not responding’,
press ctrl-alt-del? All over the world, for critical applications, people use Unix-phone
companies, banks, everyone." The Internet remains Unix-centric, despite all the NT
servers out there. There are more NT servers in corporate intranets, "but companies
that have critical online apps, or those that have learnt the hard way with NT, choose
Unix." Its reliability is legendary, says Baines. "I’ve come across a company
running Unix where the system went down after years, but the users didn’t even know where
the server was. The original sys admins had long left the company! We hunted all over the
place, looked at the plans, and finally found that it was supposed to be in the back of a
warehouse, but it wasn’t there either. It turned out someone had seen that old and dusty
machine the previous night, thought he’d take it home for the weekend, and pulled it
out!" Baines, who "participates in NT user groups and uses a lot of Microsoft
software at home" says that Gates made his entry into the enterprise side via
proprietary desktop client software with networking added as an afterthought (and
"enormously bloated" desktop apps, he adds). But the lack of a dominant
client-end product has been an advantage for Unix, which has always been multi-client.
Today, the world’s focus is again on server-side technologies. The best programmers don’t
want to work on Windows any more, he says; they’d rather work with Java. Microsoft has
great products for the home and desktop, but on the server and OS side they’ve
"stayed closed". Even when it came to "their so-called multi-platform port
of IE, it was to minority platforms like the Mac". Microsoft has now become very
defensive about everything, and like its under attack from everywhere. "It’s running
scared," says Baines.

How does he view Linux, which started as a
hobbyist project and has evolved into a major worldwide project and a powerful, free Unix
strain? "It’s a great project, we love it," he says, "it demonstrates the
spirit of innovation in the Unix world, and we’re actively involved with the project
too." What Linux lacks is major commercial backing, so implementation and support are
major issues. SCO also gives away a version of its Unix OS free to students and
non-commercial users.

Baines doesn’t go for the Unix-everywhere
approach of Sun, desktop, client, server, wherever. Companies always use a mix of systems,
with a lot of Windows clients, even though X Window apps give you similar look and feel.
But the mix of standards, openness, reliability is a potent mix for Unix, he says, and to
that commercial products have added ease of setup, and that’s a tough mix "for NT to
match".

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