Lies and Statistics – the Unix Server Market

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“There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The source of that truth seems to be unknown, but it’s sure on the mark for statistics reported in the Unix server market.

That market as a whole is said to be shrinking, though IBM’s share of it is growing. But then again the entire server market is shrinking.

We’re also told that Unix is dying and Linux will take its seat. Hardly the first time that predictions of Unix’s imminent death have been made, but never mind that. How do you make sense of all this?

What the heck is a server anyway? In terms of raw power, a desktop PC beats the pants off many a server machine from years past. On the other side, in terms of relative power to the high end, many a machine now called a server would not have been so nominated in my younger years. PC’s were PC’s, servers were servers, and anything else was a “mini”. There are no more “mini’s”, but if the high end has four zillion bozoflops of performance, and costs millions of dollars, how can a $1,800.00 toy from Dell share the same nomenclature? And as prices are shrinking anyway, shouldn’t these stats be reported in terms of units sold rather than their dollar value? Or really, since we are talking servers here, shouldn’t it all be looked at in terms of the services supplied? If we looked at services, the server market is surely growing: servers are doing more things for more users than ever before. How does Unix fit into THAT picture? In other words, are Unix servers doing more work overall than Gates powered boxes?

Speaking of Gates powered boxes, how many of those are bought with a minimum Windows OS which is replaced by Unix or Linux before being installed? Those get reported as Windows sales, which of course they are, but the Windows gets tossed before the machines sees its first network packet, so the shrinking Unix market or the growing Linux market should have gotten credit for those sales.

But wait, there’s more. Unlike the clumsy Windows cpu and ram consuming monsters, Unix and Linux can and does run on hardware that definitely wouldn’t be counted in the server class. I have many a customer running Linux mail servers on desktop class hardware. So should those be included in the “server” market stats? I say they should be.

So what does it all mean? Yes, I’m asking you, because I sure don’t know.

* Originally published at APLawrence.com

A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com

Lies and Statistics – the Unix Server Market
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