Unix vs Linux: differences and comparison

unix linux
unix linux

Last updated: July 3, 2022

Unix and Linux are the two main families of operating systems that are often found in computer rooms or computer operations centers of companies around the world. But they are, in many ways, very different.
Discover differences between Unix and Linux.

History of Unix

Unix history

Unix is an operating system that was originally developed by Bell Laboratories in the United States in the 1970s for use on mainframe computers. Bell Labs will develop the different versions of Unix System III then System V which will mainly be proprietary and paid for. They will subsequently give birth to HP-Unix, Solaris and IBM AIX.
Originally designed by Bell Labs, Unix was distributed, source code included, to UC Berkeley, which further developed the Unix system including its own modifications: the Unix BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) family was born, mainly composed of operating systems open-source and free (except paid Sun OS).
These two main Unix families are closely linked and have an important common heritage, at the level of the
source code, system architecture and organization.

Linux history

When in the early 1990s Linux appeared, his philosophy is quite different: the linux kernel has been totally rewritten in functionally inspired by the Unix system.
On the other hand, there is no inheritance of source code or architecture. What is more, while the Unix were designed for run on large systems, Linux was designed to work on the new architectures of microcomputers designed using new Intel processors: the 80386.
Written by Linus Torvalds, the Linux kernel is combined with the GNU system to form the GNU / Linux operating system (commonly called Linux). The Linux operating system is then bundled with a number of other software and packages in order to form a linux distribution whose common denominator is free (except the RedHat and Mandriva distributions) and open-source.
Among the most important Linux distributions we can mention Suze, Ubuntu, Debian and Android (smartphones) in particular. Furthermore, unlike Unix operating systems, Linux distributions are designed around

The main differences Unix - Linux

The machines installed

Initially, there was an important difference as to the machines on which were installed Unix (mainframe) and Linux (microcomputers). Today, this is no longer true and we find Linux on supercomputers. On the other hand, there is still no Unix on PC type computers.

The importance of interoperability

Linux developers have constantly emphasized the need for interoperability: standardized protocols that are subject to publication, open formats, public technical specifications, no restrictions on access or implementation.

The open-source movement and the developer community

Whereas Unix was born in the private laboratories of Bell then was improved and modified by various large world computing groups (IBM, HP, Novell) Linux developed around free communities of volunteer developers.
Added to the open format of the specifications, the community of developers has made it possible to take into account and integrate a multitude of formats, standards for consumer devices (Bluetooth, mouse, webcam) and bring forth multiple applications as different as they are varied in various areas (graphics, artificial intelligence, music, office automation, etc.) accessible free of charge and offering highly developed functionalities. For its part, Unix has remained mainly proprietary and only offers a limited wheel of always-paying applications.
Today this movement is reversed and we see large IT groups (IBM, Oracle, Novell) buying major parts of the open-source Linux ecosystem.

The specialisation

Specific to the Linux operating system, the Linux distribution is the materialization of a separation between software publishers and distributors.
In the Linux world, a Linux distribution will combine a kernel, system packages and software, and a set of other application software developed by several other communities. The whole will have a particular destination of use which corresponds to a particular need in the IT world.
Thus alongside general-use distributions, there are distributions specialized in the operation of smartphones (Android), others specialized in network routers or internet boxes (in the Freebox for example); office user workstations (Mandrake and Ubuntu), LAMP internet servers, etc.
By comparison, a Unix system is intended and intended for general and non-specialized use and it would be impossible for it to function on many on-board systems.

Distribution to the general public

While Unix has remained a computer server operating system, Linux has democratized and gained a foothold in the mainstream computer. The multiplicity of the software offer and the adoption of graphical interfaces having nothing to envy to Windows makes it possible little by little to gain ground in the family microcomputer, world in which Unix is ​​completely absent.

IT cost savings

With the specialization made possible by Linux distributions, it was very quickly possible to install servers of all kinds (internet, database, messaging, groupware, etc.) on PC hardware. Where previously it was necessary to have a Unix configuration with at least a mini-computer. This has resulted in lower hardware investment costs, software license acquisition costs, and maintenance costs.