Unix Users Prefer IBM, Sun

"IBM topped the survey again this year, winning most categories, but their lead was a bit narrower than last year," said Dan Olds, a principal analyst and CEO of the Gabriel Consulting Group. "The real surprise is that Sun surpassed HP to finish a strong second. Last year, Sun was well behind both HP and IBM overall and in most categories. This year, they definitely win our Most Improved Unix Vendor award."

Olds surveyed 277 enterprise IT managers on their Unix preferences. He said the goal was to assess how customers are feeling about their vendors and gauge their level of loyalty. He noted that while the Unix server market may not get as much ink in the press as Microsoft Windows systems and Linux, it's the largest computing segment in terms of revenue.

The big finding this year, he noted, is Sun's resurgence in a market the company struggled in the year before.

"I was surprised the year before at Sun being third in a market they had owned for so long," said Olds. "This year they came back to a strong second. In some categories, they're challenging IBM for No. 1, and in some categories they are No. 1."

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In 2005, IBM had easily run away with everything, he added. And the company still commands a strong hold on the top spot this year. Sun's strides took more share away from HP than from IBM.

In terms of overall technology performance, IBM had a score of 107.5. That means IBM's users gave it extremely high marks, and HP's and Sun's users defected from their own vendors and threw their votes in with IBM, pushing it over the normally perfect score of 100. In the same technology category, HP had the most defections, bringing in a score of just 63.

For partitioning and virtualization capabilities, IBM had a score of 106, Sun had an 82, and HP scored a 60. For the quality of 'break fix' and maintenance, Sun came in last with a score of 72. HP pulled in a 78 and IBM came out on top again with 102.

IBM wasn't the top dog when it comes to system management. Sun came out on top in that category with a 95, IBM came in second with 90, and HP pulled in third with 81.

Olds noted that Sun had successful product launches this year with its T1000 and T2000 Niagara-based servers, and also managed to increase its revenue significantly. These factors really gave the company a boost in the market.

For IBM, the company continued to stay focused and executed its road map well, he added.

"With IBM doing so well and Sun becoming a player again, HP didn't seem to have as much push this year," said Olds. "The survey was taken at the height of [HP's boardroom leak investigation] scandal and I do think it hurt them. I think it will be a short-term hurt, but it's still a hurt. In the survey, some customers even called it out. Some were joking. Some weren't. What happens in the boardroom doesn't affect Unix servers, but HP did pick up some tarnish over this."