UNIX Migration Trends

A recent survey shows that Windows is the top choice

According to a recent ChangeWave Research survey, IT managers are increasingly moving from proprietary RISC-based UNIX servers to lower-cost Intel-based servers. Proprietary servers can't keep pace with standard Intel-based servers' rapid increases in price/performance gains. In addition, numerous manufacturers offer Intel-based servers, providing an open and interoperable market for hardware solutions—and freeing you from being locked into one vendor's product.

This trend is helping to solidify Windows' market share at the expense of products such as Sun Microsystems' Solaris, Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX, IBM's AIX, and IBM's AS/400. To dig deeper into the UNIX-to-Windows migration trend, I spoke with Doug Miller, Microsoft’s “Solutions CEO” for UNIX-to-Windows migrations. Miller’s group is responsible for focusing Microsoft’s consulting and partner resources to help customers migrate from UNIX to Windows. “We have over 50 public case studies of customers that have moved from UNIX to a Windows-based infrastructure. We also have over 100 active migration projects,” Miller told me.

According to some of these case studies, several Microsoft customers have migrated to a complete Windows Server environment in 30 days. First, the customers implemented Services for UNIX (SFU) 3.0, a group of Windows 2000 services that emulate a UNIX environment. (These services include APIs, cross-platform tools, shell scripting, and directory services.) The customers then recompiled and tested their UNIX applications. Microsoft recommends using its migration partners to help UNIX-to-Windows migrations. These partners help create migration solutions, then Microsoft partners such as Dell, Infosys Technologies, and Intel work with Microsoft Consulting Services—MCS—to implement those solutions. (The ChangeWave report concludes that Dell will get the lion’s share—34 percent—of new UNIX-to-Windows migration-related server purchases, followed by HP with 15 percent and IBM with 6 percent.) Microsoft’s "Migrating to Windows from UNIX and Linux" Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/migrate/unix) provides a 700-page technical guide that includes best practices and tips for migrating source code, directory services, shell scripts, and other necessary infrastructure.

Miller agrees that the move away from proprietary servers is the number-one reason that customers are moving from UNIX to Windows. According to Miller, the second biggest reason for UNIX-to-Windows migrations is that customers want to use Web services to rewrite old applications. “Customers are not looking for a short-term play. Their current applications have been running for 8-10 years, so the next applications they implement need to last at least that long,” he said. He believes that customers perceive Microsoft .NET and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) as the two main choices for a Web services development platform.

Microsoft claims that its .NET environment provides a quicker time to market than J2EE does. “We hired a third party \[to use Visual Studio .NET and J2EE to develop a version of\] Sun’s reference application, Java Pet Store J2EE Blueprint. The third party was able to develop that application \[Microsoft .NET Pet Shop 2 Enterprise Edition\] much quicker using Visual Studio .NET development tools and environment,” said Miller. (For more information about .NET Pet Shop, go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnbda/html/bdasamppet.asp?frame=true. For more information about the Windows .NET Framework, go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/netframework/productinfo/overview/default.asp.) In addition, J2EE requires that you exclusively use the Java programming language to develop applications, whereas .NET is language-independent (i.e., you can mix and match any language that the .NET Common Language Runtime—CLR—supports).

Miller said that Linux is Microsoft's biggest competition for UNIX migrations. “We have customers that have chosen to eventually move to Windows because of .NET, but will migrate first to Linux, because they can migrate quickly without the expense of retraining their UNIX developers and administrators,” he said.

Miller admitted that Microsoft needs to provide better training for experienced UNIX developers and administrators. “Part of it is a cultural issue. They haven’t really given Windows a serious look since Windows 95. If I can get the customer to seriously look at the .NET development environment, Windows 2000 Server and Windows XP Professional, I can usually get the customers to at least consider Windows,” said Miller. “If you follow the migration guide and run your Windows infrastructure with the same rigorous discipline (i.e., use firewalls, patch maintenance, and regular backups) as your UNIX infrastructure, you will find your future Windows environment to be as good as your current UNIX environment.”

Indeed, the ChangeWave report shows that Linux is gaining acceptance because of its growing maturity and stability and because of customers' increased cost-consciousness. One IT manager wrote, “Microsoft has become an obnoxious giant.” Another pointed out that his or her company was “migrating to lower-cost Linux. As Microsoft continues price increases, \[it's\] hard for us to justify value.” According to the report, IT managers cited cost as the number-one reason for migrating to Linux.

In spite of the trend away from UNIX, the report shows that 17 percent of IT managers intend to increase their installed base of UNIX/Solaris. “Although we are migrating many \[servers\] to NT, we have a large base of Solaris servers that will remain for a while," explained one respondent. Another Sun customer insisted that “Solaris is a reliable, scalable, stable proven operating environment. Linux is better than Windows for a small Intel server, but still doesn’t match Solaris for enterprise applications.”

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