Originally published in the March 1995 issue of Advanced Systems.


Unix: Platform leader

Don't kid yourself. PC and mainframe pros aren't making Unix enterprise buying decisions by themselves.

By Michael E. McCarthy

Unix is having its best year ever. Yet, I observe that vendors and industry pundits struggle to understand where the heart of the enterprise market lies.

The Unix hardware market grew 20 percent last year. Makers of Unix systems are enjoying record profits: Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics; IBM's RS/6000 unit seems to be doing well; and Digital Equipment's little secret is that the biggest chunk of its now-booming Alpha-based business is in OSF/1 Unix-based systems.

IDC research shows that in 1995 Unix-based application development tools will outpace all rivals to become the top-selling environment at $8.1 billion, surpassing mainframe-based tools and shooting past DOS/Windows like it was standing still. No wonder mainframe vendors are rehosting their software to Unix.

Unix is becoming ever more vital to enterprise computing. But don't kid youself. PC and mainframe professionals aren't making all the Unix buying decisions now. Integrating the enterprise brings people from different skill areas together, as they each bring unique experience, capabilities, toolsets, and information needs. When the mainframe or the PC folks need that Unix server for an important enterprise strategy, they turn to the Unix professionals for advice, recommendations, and implementation. As the systems become more complex, the buying process becomes more complex.

It's not always obvious when technology crosses traditional boundaries who is driving the changes. AGE Logic makes PC X server software. They marketed it to PC professionals -- it runs on PCs, after all. When that didn't work, they polled their installed base and discovered they were largely Unix professionals (who read Advanced Systems, but you knew that). That might explain the overly PC-centric marketing strategies of other client-side developer products like Powerbuilder and Visual Basic -- aren't they PC products?

I don't think so. Let's create a new mental map for the new world of client/server enterprise computing. Old map: PCs, workstations, mainframes. New map: clients, servers, warehouses. Three legs of a stool. Nobody can rest on one leg anymore.

I, ERobot
On page 72 of this issue you'll find the results from our January FaxBack reader survey. We found a striking lack of hostility among Unix professionals toward Microsoft NT. We also found Advanced Systems readers to be real power users -- more than half of you have Mosaic access to the Internet.

This month's FaxBack topic asks what you think of the idea of our e-mail robots, which offer added information for news, reviews, columns and features. You'll find this month's faxback on line -- how appropriate! Check it out by sending a blank e-mail message to MarchFaxback@advanced.com.

If you've never tried our e-mail robots, this is a good time to test them: Simply send an e-mail to robot@advanced.com to receive a list of all our e-mail robot reader services.

That list also includes the solution to another problem: the huge increase in reader response over the past year. We're getting strong reader reaction to our stories -- the C++ comparative review in December, criticism of OpenStep in a December column, the "Nightmare of C++" book excerpt in November, my editorial on NT in December, for instance. These and other stories are rousing readers as well as vendors to inundate us with interesting letters -- so many I don't have room to publish them all. Therefore, we are offering the letters-to-the-editor overflow on line, too -- the letters are grouped by specific topic so you can browse according to your needs. For those of you who are interested, send an e-mail to letters@advanced.com for a list of files containing reader reaction to specific topics. Check it out!

About the author
Michael McCarthy (michael.mccarthy@advanced.com) is editor in chief of Advanced Systems.

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Last updated: 1 March 1995.