UNIX Systems have been instrumental in the information systems management of corporations and organizations for many years. Although in recent years it has been overshadowed by other operating systems, it still remains as an alternative to other systems. The purpose of this discussion is to describe the benefits and problems associated with UNIX systems.
The most beneficial aspects of UNIX are the robust nature of the system and the ability to secure the system effectively. The robust nature of the system allows organizations to manage various technological functions properly with speed and ease. The ability to secure the system allows organizations to tightly control who can access the system.
Two of the most problematic aspects of UNIX have been the differences in the versions of UNIX that were offered by various vendors and the fact that the system has not been as user friendly as other alternatives. The differences in the versions of UNIX were problematic because they required application software to be rewritten many times (Moody 2001). In addition, it locked organizations into using the products of only one vendor (Moody 2001). The literature also points out that may organizations choose not to use UNIX because it is not as user friendly as that PC (Courtney and Hunton 1993).
The purpose of this research is to review the history of the Unix System and the problems associated with the use of the system in today's technological world. The discussion will seek to determine the reasons for the problems that are associated with UNIX. The discussion will also focus on the UNIX predecessor, LINUX.
According to an article found in the CPA Journal the UNIX, system was created in 1970 by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson (Gladek et al., 1989). Both men worked for Bell laboratories and the product was introduced to the public in 1974. Initially, the product was given to universities and scientific organization for free or at a discounted cost (Gladek et al., 1989). According to the authors, this led to the further development of the system (Gladek et al., 1989). The authors also explain that in 1980 there were nearly 2500 UNIX installations around the world (Gladek et al., 1989). By 1984 that number had increased to 100,000 and by 1988 the number of UNIX installations was 700,000 (Gladek et al., 1989).
The authors assert that UNIX "is a multi-user, multi-tasking operating system. A computer installation running UNIX consists typically of a single computer, one or more printers, possibly one or more modems, and a number of terminals (Gladek et al., 1989)." The authors also maintain that the UNIX system is/was not considered as user friendly as the Personal Computer. According to Courtney and Hunton (1993) "After the introduction of more powerful PCs, a compact version of Unix, called XENIX, was marketed to support multiple users on PCs. XENIX performed quite adequately but generally was shunned because it was difficult to use. After all, it was designed by and for engineers and scientists; user-friendliness was not a design consideration (Courtney and Hunton 1993)."
The UNIX system was unique in that it allowed a high-speed processor to alternate quickly between various tasks, which give each user the feeling that he or she commands the system's full concentration (Gladek et al., 1989). The authors assert that the functions of the UNIX system include the allocation of processor time and memory fairly between "simultaneous" processes; manage the use of devices like modems and printers so they can be shared fairly between users; and "giving users access to only those files they are authorized to use (Gladek et al., 1989). Moody 2001 explains, "The UNIX philosophy is really very easy," Salus says, "and consists of maybe two or three notions. The first one, which is perhaps the most innovative thing that Thompson ever thought of, is that everything is a file. Second is the notion that when you build something, no matter whether it's an editor or whether it's a way of attaching one file to another file, you write things that are for a single purpose but do that purpose well (Moody 2001)."
In time, UNIX became known as a product for hackers because it lacked the proper security. A white paper published by the UNIX Systems Cooperative Promotion Group, explains that UNIX was the first operating system to be compromised through internet attacks ("The UNIX Operating System:
Mature, Standardized and State-of-the-Art," n.d.). In addition, the system was never a corporate product (Moody 2001). Instead, UNIX had many different vendors that offered slightly different versions from one another (Moody 2001). The differences in the versions were problematic because "application software had to be rewritten many times, and users were locked into the software of one supplier. Because UNIX had also failed to embrace fully the new wave of graphical interfaces, its solutions in this area were crude when compared with the Apple Macintosh or Microsoft Windows. Windows NT, by contrast, was designed to marry the power of a VMS-like operating system with the elegance and usability of Windows 3.1 (Moody 2001)."
However, with maturation the UNIX system became one of the most secure operating systems that can be purchased. Engineers were able to design a system that used methods of authentication and authorization to grant access to users. In addition, the system became more user-friendly which sparked the interests of organizations.
Although the UNIX operating system has now been overshadowed by the Windows operating system, for many years it was used in organizations throughout the world. From Universities to corporations, many users found the UNIX operating system to be useful and beneficial. For instance, an article found in THE Journal explains that the UNIX systems were used at Nova Southern University since 1983. The article explains that the university uses the UNIX system to deliver online courses to at home users (Scigliano 2000). This illustrates that UNIX was one of the first systems to allow educational institutions to provide students with online learning capabilities. Today online learning is common at institutions of higher learning throughout the world. UNIX is still used to offer students online courses and at organizations around the world.
In addition, the federal government has used UNIX systems for quite some time. The federal government found that they could better secure UNIX systems against threats than they could alternative operating systems. The White Paper "The UNIX Operating System: Mature, Standardized and State-of-the-Art" asserts that "for governments- the standardization of the UNIX system was both desirable and within reach. Governments have clout and are the largest consumers of information technology products and services in the world. Driven by the need to improve commonality, both U.S. And European governments endorsed a shift to the UNIX system ("The UNIX Operating System: Mature, Standardized and State-of-the-Art, n.d.")."
One of the latest versions of UNIX is UNIX 03. According to the White Paper "The UNIX Operating System: Mature, Standardized and State-of-the-Art, UNIX has become more sophisticated and engineers have eradicated the problems that plagued the system in previous years. The report explains that the rejuvenated popularity of the UNIX system has occurred as a result of an increased desire for open systems. The report asserts,
"The "open systems" approach is in bold contrast to other operating environments that lock in their customers with resultant high switching costs. UNIX system suppliers, on the other hand, must constantly provide the highest quality systems in order to retain their customers. Those who become dissatisfied with one UNIX system implementation retain the ability to easily move to another UNIX system implementation (The UNIX Operating System: Mature, Standardized and State-of-the-Art, n.d.)."
The report also points out that there are several benefits associated with the use of open systems. The article explains that these benefits include flexibility, cost savings, the ability to choose products from different vendors and the compatibility of different vendor products. In addition, the report shows that users also benefit from open systems, cost of ownership, Capability to share information anywhere in the world.
The report also explains that there are some noticeable difference between UNIX and Windows NT (another popular operating system). The authors report that when comparing these products IT professionals have found that UNIX is more scalable, robust and reliable than Windows NT. Comparisons between the two systems also indicate that UNIX is less proprietary. In addition, professionals recommend UNIX for large scale IT projects.
It is also available for a wide range of computing products. The White Paper also indicates, "Scalability is here today, enabling application to run on small-scale systems through to the largest servers necessary. The UNIX system is available on hardware ranging from low-cost PC-class servers on through parallel architectures that harness together 60 or more processors. This range is wider and the choices of hardware more cost effective than any other system. The UNIX system is the only option for Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)."
In addition, to maturation to meet the needs of large organizations, UNIX has also inspired an operating system…