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Kevin Garrison, vice president of sales at Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based solution provider and long-term HP partner, said his company is seeing little to no interest in customers to move away from Oracle software running on HP-UX for now.
"The conversations we are having are [about] at what point in the future does the Oracle decision have an impact," Garrison said. "Our best answer is about five years from now. So it's not an issue for the next few years."
Some customers of Oracle and HP, however, have decided not to wait in the wake of the uncertainty, and are moving to IBM.
Migrating mission-critical operations from one flavor of Unix to another requires a significant investment not only in hardware and software, but also in retraining of staff and retooling of procedures. Yet several have decided the investment is worth it.
IBM in October said that it recorded over 250 competitive displacements worth a total of over $240 million in the Unix server market during its fiscal third quarter, with the displacements split evenly between HP and Oracle.
The prior quarter, IBM recorded 334 client displacements to its Power server line, which runs its AIX Unix operating system. That included 210 customers from Oracle and 110 from HP, said Steve Sibley, director of product management for IBM Power Systems. As a result, even though IBM's third quarter Unix server sales dropped 3.3 percent over last year, revenue for those sales bloomed 27.0 percent, according to Gartner.
Sibley said IBM saw in every quarter of 2011 a double-digit growth in revenue for its AIX Unix and Power server line.
"For the market as a whole, analyst firms like IDC essentially see sales as flat or slightly down in the last couple of quarters," he said. "We think the market will be slightly up in the fourth quarter, given our business and the new Oracle T4 server introduction."
For the Unix market as a whole, new customers are relatively rare when compared to other operating environments, Sibley said. "There are always some new clients growing from ground zero, or migrating from other platforms," he said. "There are few from non-Unix platforms. But we're seeing about 10 percent of new customers migrating up from x86, including those new to Power and those who already have Power elsewhere in their organizations."
IBM expects the Unix server business to grow, Sibley said.
"We clearly see continued growth in this space and for the Power platform for as long as we can see," he said. "We have continued growth built into our model. We don't see that changing in the foreseeable future."
Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider which works with all the top server vendors, said he is following a couple of trends which will impact Unix server sales into the future.
The first, Teter said, is Intel's new Westmere E7 line of processors which are comparable in performance to IBM's RISC-based Power7 processor in two-socket or four-socket servers.
"In larger servers, Power7 is better," he said. "But it's amazing the power of those Intel processors. And the design can handle up to 32 sockets."
In the past, to scale the number of sockets, Unix was the only choice, Teter said. "That's changing," he said. "But we have to wait a little bit for Microsoft and Linux to catch up. The operating system is a separate development."
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