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The Year in Operating Systems: No battle of big ideas

Small change for 2009

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Duck and cover

There are, of course, other operating systems in corporate computing that still matter but they do not just move at a glacial pace. They seem to be frozen in time.

IBM's mainframe operating systems - z/OS, VSE, and VM - as well as its midrange proprietary operating system - i 6.1, formerly known as i5/OS and before that, OS/400 - still drive billions of dollars in hardware sales for the company, and in the case of the mainframe operating systems, drive billions of dollars in annual licensing fees for those operating systems and their related middleware stacks.

These are great businesses for IBM to support, delivering sales and profits, but innovation comes at a slow pace. In fact, most of the innovation that these IBM operating systems have seen over recent years was to tweak them to run on more scalable hardware (more processor sockets and cores), to support 64-bit memory (which the AS/400 got back in 1995, the mainframe in 2001), or to be propped up on hypervisors that allowed alternative operating systems to run beside them on the same iron.

Ditto for HP's OpenVMS and NonStop platforms, which have been ported from their respective Alpha and MIPS platforms to HP's Integrity servers.

But actual change deep inside the operating system, aside from new hardware and scalability enhancements, is not really coming at a fast pace. When you are running legacy applications on legacy operating systems, this is what customers want: as little change as possible.

This was probably something Microsoft began to realize this year, as it tried to move beyond Windows XP to Windows Vista and started looking ahead to Windows Vista's successor: Windows 7. ®

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