13 November 2002 Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computer, last night launched a scathing attack on Unix systems, saying that open source-based servers will come to dominate even at the high end of the market.
“The days of proprietary Unix as the only platform capable of running mission-critical applications are rapidly ending,” Michael Dell told thousands of delegates at Oracle’s user conference in San Francisco, California.
“Linux clusters have the potential to be the super computers of the future. I know that is a bold statement, but that’s the way things seem to be heading at the moment,” he added. The comments echoed recent sentiments by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. “Inevitably, the big machine will die,” he said.
Michael Dell gave a keynote speech at Oracle’s user event ostensibly to draw attention to Dell’s deepening alliance with the database giant. But he used the platform to set out his vision of an IT industry based on open standards, rather than proprietary technologies.
“The whole ecosystem is moving to this standardised infrastructure,” he said. “Standards-based hardware and software represents the future of our industry.”
Michael Dell compared his company’s strong growth in recent years with that of Sun Microsystems, which until recently has supported only its Solaris Unix operating system.
Six years ago, he said, Dell Computer shipped only two-thirds of the volume of servers that Sun did. But by 2001 his company was shipping almost four times as many as Sun. Many, although by no means all, of these Dell systems run the Linux operating system, he said.
The main advantage of Linux is its lower cost, not only in upfront licence fees but also because it is cheaper to maintain a standards-based system than a proprietary system, he added.
“Unix customers are paying more for less and they are starting to realise that. We think our job is to drive those costs down. In Linux we have found a Unix that is a better answer. We think Linux is the new Unix.”
However, Dell admitted that the open source movement was still in a “gestation period”. Proprietary legacy systems would not disappear for many years, he acknowledged, “no matter how much we’d like to think they will.”