What's causing the Unix market slowdown?
How much is Unix midrange server sales growing now? We discuss the fierce competition threatening continued growth
Sales of traditional Unix workstations will continue to slow over the next few years as NT begins its ascent to the most widely-used platform by the year 2000, according to the report. Unix RISC workstation sales fell from $12.1 billion in 1995 to $11.4 billion in 1996. The main reason for this decline is that "Intel-based systems running the NT Workstation operating system are beginning to take on tasks formerly handled by low-end Unix RISC workstations," according to the report.
However, despite strong growth in NT server sales, Unix server sales continued to grow at rates of 22 to 34 percent in 1996. Small-scale Unix server (less than $100,000) revenues grew 22 percent from $9.1 billion in 1995 to $11.1 billion this year, while midrange system ($100,000 to $999,000) revenues grew 34 percent to $9 billion. Steady growth in the low-to-midrange Unix server market was due to continued strong use of Unix servers as platforms for relational database engines, according to IDC. Large-scale Unix server ($1 million and up) revenue grew 5 percent in 1996.
In 1997, low-end Unix server sales will slow due to competition from NT-based servers, however.
Many corporations will install a majority of NT servers and workstations over the next three years, but will also continue to purchase Unix systems until Microsoft addresses such issues as clustering, scalability, compatibility, and support for high-speed graphics, according to IDC. The major switch to NT in lieu of Unix should begin to happen in 1998 when Microsoft releases its Wolfpack clustering software, according to the report.
One way Unix system vendors will differentiate their machines from NT-based ones is by offering high-speed 64-bit computers aimed at boosting database performance by allowing servers to process data directly in memory instead of fetching it from disk, according to the report. One example of this tactic is Silicon Graphics Inc.'s O2 line of desktop workstations, which start at approximately $6,000 and are 10 times faster than the company's old Indy line of machines.
Overall, if Unix vendors can convince users that their workstations and servers fill a role that NT can't, the Unix market will continue to grow, according to the report. However, the Microsoft-Intel partnership will undoubtedly dampen many companies' sales.
--Kristi Essick, IDG News Service, San Francisco Bureau
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