A large majority of our survey respondents report that Unix virtualization has reduced their costs. No surprise there-they've reduced their hardware needs and increased efficiency. We believe that the fact that Unix vendors provided virtualization before it become prevalent in x86 is one of the reasons that the Unix market is still hale and healthy. If Unix systems were still mired in the "single application per server" usage model, we doubt the market would be as large as it is today.
Every data center-whether Unix- or x86-centric-is acutely aware of facility constraints. Fully two-thirds of our respondents said that facilities concerns (power, cooling, and floor space) played a significant role in their current server purchasing criteria.
These issues are growing in importance moving forward. As can be seen from the accompanying chart, more than 75 percent of our survey respondents said that "Power, cooling, and floor space requirements will be much more important to us in the future."
So what does this mean to the Unix market? Intel and the major x86 server OEMs have been touting their platform in terms of energy efficiency and density for a few years now. Unix system vendors have, of course, also been responding to the same trends and implementing more energy- and space-efficient designs.
With this in mind, we're interested in getting the data center view on how these how these two architectures stack up in terms of facilities.
Nearly two-thirds of our respondents believe that Unix systems are more energy-efficient than x86. So, at least according to those working in Unix data centers, the Unix platform actually outperforms x86 when it comes to facilities requirements.
We tend to think that this might have something to do with the fact that customers are packing multiple important workloads onto their Unix boxes, and that virtualized Unix has been around longer than virtualized x86. Customers routinely combine multiple Unix applications onto virtual machines running in partitions, which pushes up overall system utilization rates. This fact, we believe, is probably why customers see their Unix boxes as more "facility manager friendly" when compared to the sprawl of blades, towers, and x86-flavored pizza box servers crammed into every nook and cranny of many data centers.
Overall, we see the Unix market as healthy, although it certainly isn't growing as quickly as the x86 server segment. Vendor consolidation has been a good thing. The three surviving major vendors, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems, have solid products that offer good performance, scalability, and availability. Each of their operating systems enjoys wide and deep ISV support, with applications ported and optimized for each platform. More importantly, each vendor is still aggressively competing against the others for data center market share. They're pushing ahead on various fronts in an attempt to differentiate their offerings.