Australia's national IT research and development boffins at Brisbane's Distributed Systems Technology Centre (DSTC) expect Unix and Unix-based systems to enter a period of growth in the coming five years.
DSTC's100 scientists work with a consortium of other organizations. They try to predict the future of enterprise technologies. The group's chief scientist Andy Bond predicts that in five years, IT managers will be looking for a way to avoid being committed to a single vendor.
The open-source turf wars of the last five years, he says, will serve to keep vendors with monopolistic ambitions in check, not least through a change in generational culture.
"A lot of the people who have been through the Linux stuff for the last 20 years are moving into corporate management. Even if they choose Microsoft, they have an understanding of an alternative in the back of their mind. There is an entire generation with that understanding. A lot people are querying the status quo," Bond said.
"Back in the 1980s we had this big thing about open systems and it was IT insurance. You had to ensure you didn't follow a single vendor down a path so that you just handed them blank cheques. Some companies still do that," Bond said.
Some vendors will bind clients to them, he said, adding that the cost of getting out of that relationship becomes almost prohibitive. "Where we are headed is to having an alternative that will keep them honest," Bond says.
Unix and "its variants" will experience a resurgence in growth, while the masses continue to look for an overwhelming reason to switch to alternatives such as Linux.
"Over the last five years, there has been a lot of maturation but really it is still waiting for the one ring to bind them all to together. Everyone in the Linux community is waiting for something to be 'it' (the single driving force) – and eventually something will be 'it'," Bond said.
"In five years from now IT managers will be looking for holistic data-management solutions and buying a lot more information management systems," Bond said.
Bond also warns that user's trust in the security of email will continue to wane: "I get (fraudulent) spam and they know my name, what I do and so on. Sometimes they want me to update a certificate or something like that. It's hard to tell the difference (between a fake and the real thing). If I have trouble telling the difference, how the hell is a computer going to? It will be back to following it up with a phone call," Bond warned.