Officials for Unisys on Tuesday fired a shot across the bow of the Unix community with its announcement that Microsoft is aggressively developing Windows solutions for the Unisys ES-7000 server, with the intent to push the Unix operating platform out of the data centre.
Pete Samsom, vice president and general manager of technological development at Unisys, called the demise of Unix in the data centre a "when, not if" scenario. Microsoft and Avanade - a new company created by Accenture, formally Anderson Consulting - have been working on Windows data centre technology for almost a year, he said. The products, scheduled to begin appearing by year's end, will run on the Unisys ES-7000, the only server currently available that can run Windows on 32-way Intel-based architecture.
Samsom said that Microsoft and Avanade have come together "to develop applications at the high-end Windows space to take Datacenter Server and .NET Enterprise Server and be competitive with high-end Unix applications" from Unix players such as Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.
"By moving the Windows applications up to the space traditionally occupied by Unix, we hope to completely do away with Unix in the long term," Samsom said. "It's not an if, but a when; the Wintel alliance will push Sun out of that space."
Samsom's strong words drew fire from industry analysts who believe Microsoft and Unisys have a steep hill to climb before wrestling the data centre environment from Unix.
"I think Microsoft has been making some slow and steady progress in the data centre, but Unix owns [the data centre market], and they aren't giving up very easily," said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at Linley Group, a US-based technology analysis firm.
"Unix has been designed to meet the needs of these high-end systems [found in data centres]. The kind of reliability people put up with on a PC you simply can't put up with in a data centre. [Microsoft still has] a way to go. They are gaining a foothold and working their way up," Gwennap said.
Samsom said one of the challenges facing Microsoft with high-end computing is that "most applications in the Windows space are tuned for 4- and 8-way servers," not the 32-way Unisys server.
Samsom also said that although migrating Unix applications over to Windows is "relatively straightforward" for companies running unmodified "packaged software", certain Unix applications will require some re-engineering.
Officials for Microsoft were unavailable for comment.