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I developed the framework presented below for the comparison of Solaris and linux. But it is a quite general framework that can be adapted for comparison of any two Unix flavor in large enterprise environment.
While there are many similarities, there are also several important differences between large enterprises and small enterprises environments.
Large enterprises usually already have
huge investments in one or several of major Unix flavors like AIX, HP-UX
and Solaris and thus inevitably incur huge costs of transitions independently
of merits or demerits of the new OS that is introduced into the pre-existing
mix of Unix flavors.
In a large enterprise
several classes of servers usually are present: small medium range and
large while in small enterprises typically the whole infrastructure is
built on small servers (sometimes there are a couple of midrange severs
in the backbone.)
Scalability issues usually are more acute in large enterprise with
its almost endless stream of acquisitions and divestitures. The
size of the company datacenter can double in one year due to a large acquisition
and this possibility should be taken into account when planning IT infrastructure.
Any large investment in particular flavor of Unix requires an investment into hiring and/or training of sysadmins. While not necessary better paid then their counterparts in smaller enterprises, sysadmins employed by large enterprises usually have better access to vendor training and support then sysadmins from medium or smaller enterprises. Also staff tends to be older with more years of administration under the belt. It is not uncommon to see people who have more then 15 years of system administration under the belt. Both factors create more resistance to change.
Of course there are exceptions to this picture but generally I think those three distinctive features are pretty typical.
The complexity of the modern OSes creates some kind of natural limit of the level of adoption and typically enterprises prefer one flavor Unix over another. At the same time other flavors typically exist as a result of mergers at least in minor quantities.
This makes the issues of proliferation of Unix flavors really important issue for any highly qualified system administrator who have multi-year investment in particular (favorite) flavor of OSes and rather good but less in-depth understanding of some other commercial flavor. If the organization have three of more flavors of Unix sysadmin naturally tend to limit themselves to one major and one minor flavor, ignoring everything else. That means that there is some natural specialization in the Unix group in large enterprises. This natural tendency is probably connected with the limits of human capabilities to understand such complex systems as modern OSes: you cannot implant the second head to system administrator and it looks like there is only a space for just two OSes in a regular heads :-).
To quote Linux Torvalds, changing operating systems for sysadmins is not unlike “performing brain surgery on yourself”. And the more qualified sysadmin is in particular brand of Unix, the more he/she tend to lose from switching. For the next year or two he/she will feel himself like a novice on the skating ring, not very comfortable felling...
Another factor is that administration is usually more formalized and governed by some procedures which are connected either with legal issues or with the security. For example, SecurID tokens are most common in large companies. Also some integration with Windows infrastructure, especially the ability to use Active Directory for identity management of Unix users tend to be important (and more common) for huge companies with many thousand of PC clients and diverse team of system administrators geographically dispersed in several sites
I would suggest the following factors represent the most important differences between large enterprise and small enterprise (and non-enterprise) environments. This list definitely can be extended, but even in the current form it might provide a useful framework for the understanding the cost of introduction of a new flavor of Unix in enterprise environment. We will distinguish the following nine major areas of comparison of challenger and incumbent. they are subjectively rated in the decreasing order of importance
We will postpone discussion of two issues until later
Good fit, or better synergy, with the major deployment areas (will be discussed later)
Security issues (will be discussed later)
and discuss the following six areas:
Unix ecosystem-related issues
The cost of patching
The cost of support
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