February 16, 2019

Unisys Makes Big Play for Linux in 2004

A New Linux Committment

  • November 29, 2004
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Unisys made large changes to its Linux strategy during 2004, first unveiling the migration of its Itanium 2-based ES7000 servers to Red Hat and Novell SUSE in August, and then adding a hybrid 32-/64-bit platform for Linux and Windows in November.

Unisys made large changes to its Linux strategy during 2004, first unveiling the migration of its Itanium 2-based ES7000 servers to Red Hat and Novell SUSE in August, and then adding a hybrid 32-/64-bit platform for Linux and Windows in November.

Some analysts predict that the growing support for Linux will pay off for the systems vendor over the next couple of years.

"Our intent has been to enter the Linux market," said Derek Rodnor, Unisys' senior marketing manager for Linux enterprise systems, in an interview with LinuxPlanet.

Until mid-summer of 2004, Unisys had given direct support only for Microsoft Windows on its PC servers. Over the years, Unisys servers had been available with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and SCO Linux--and before that, with SCO's non-Linux UnixWare platform--but only through referrals to Unisys partners.

Specifically, Unisys is targeting the world of 4- to 32-processor Linux, according to Rodnor. "With the 2.6 kernel, scalable mission-critical applications really exist with Linux. That's what's making Linux enterprise-ready," he said.

"With Windows, you're getting a lot of lot of server sprawl--a lot of 2-bys and 4-bys," Rodnor added.

Also unlike Windows, he noted, Linux has begun to support dynamic partitioning, a capability in ES7000 servers designed to shift power to applications as they need it, without human intervention. "Dynamic partitioning hasn't been available for Windows at all," he said.

Rodnor acknowledged that the high-end enterprise market for Linux is still small, and that more applications are still needed. "But with (more processors), you can support many more users," he said. Rodnor also foresees the use of dynamic partitioning on both database servers and application servers.

In one recently announced port to Linux on Itanium, SAS and Intel announced plans in September to deliver SAS business intelligence (BI) applications.

Unisys is keenly interested, too, in the market for RISC-to-PC server migration, according to the senior marketing manager.

With the addition of Linux support for ES7000, initially announced at LinuxWorld in August, Unisys "leapfrogged" budding competition in the enterprise Linux space from the likes of IBM, Sun, and Hewlett-Packard, Rodnor said.

"Unlike those three companies, we're not encumbered by a large (RISC) customer base," he contended. "With Linux, you can now get equal performance, but at a fraction of the cost."

In November, Unisys announced the ES7000/460, a hybrid system supporting the migration of 32-bit Linux and Windows users to a 64-bit PC server environment. The ES7000/460 supports both the Itanium 2 processor and the Intel Xeon processor MP in a single rackmounted unit.

Unisys also produces Server Sentinel software, for managing Windows and Linux environments from a single screen.

Also at LinuxWorld, Unisys joined the OSDL. "Linux was originally intended to be a Utopia. There is that potential for Linux to become fragmented, but hopefully this can be overcome," Rodnor said.

"We want to prove to the open source community that we are committed to Linux," LinuxPlanet was told.

Within OSDL, Unisys is a member of a data center Linux subgroup, where it plans to contribute in the dynamic partitioning arena. "We have years of experience with mainframes. There's code (for dynamic partitioning) in the 2.6 Linux kernel, but a lot of work still needs to be done."

"Unisys has made a strong commitment to Linux with its ES7000 server family," according to Carl Claunch, an analyst at Gartner Group.

"(But) the Linux community of users often looks to activities such as participation in open-source development to gauge the seriousness of a vendor's commitment; evidence of the deep Unisys approach to Linux will increase over time," Claunch wrote in a recent report.

Unisys' embracement of Linux brings the company "out of its historic dependence on the Windows market," Claunch said.

"Unisys used its experience and technology to develop a ´┐ŻWindows mainframe' product that came to market years before competitors' offerings, such as IBM's x440. However, many of the more advanced capabilities of Unisys' product line--such as dynamic partitioning or concurrent maintenance during production use--depended on technology yet to be developed for Windows."

Rodnor told LinuxPlanet that from Unisys's perspective, Linux has now reached the "inflection point" for becoming a commercially viable business, "There must be a viable business model. Linux can't be free."

Unisys is eyeing sales of enterprise-class Linux systems into vertical markets that include finance, government, and health care, for example, Rodnor said. "Financial services has already been adopting Linux for years now," he pointed out.

Unisys has long held a particularly solid position in the government market, according to Claunch.

"The government sector, where Unisys has targeted significant resources and gained strong business results, has expressed a growing demand (for operating environment alternatives). This undoubtedly factored into the decision by Unisys to promote Linux so enthusiastically," he observed.

The Gartner analyst sees a 0.8 probability that Unisys will garner 20 percent of its ES7000 sales from Linux by 2006.

Early users of Linux on the ES7000 include the Florida Department of Children and Families; Pennsylvania State University; marketing services firm beNOW; biometric security provider IntelliTrac; South African health care provider Medscheme; and Policia Investigaciones de Chile, a Chilean government agency.

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