As computers have become more and more a part of the modern business world, the infrastructure required to run these systems has become increasingly complex, and the operating system that runs individual computers has become part of a far larger network of applications and data across LANs, WANs and even the Internet.
This is according to Jaroslav Cerny, CEO at RDB Consulting, an outsource and consulting company that specialises in four areas: relational databases, operating systems, monitoring and enterprise resource planning.
"Deploying an enterprise-wide network of computers, data and applications requires the use of an enterprise operating system that has the capacity to deliver high levels of uptime, stability and scalability, and these types of OS have been around for many years now," explains Cerny.
"However in the last few years a new requirement has emerged that should be a key consideration when it comes to selecting an enterprise OS – that of third party support and integration delivered on an open standards platform."
Traditionally, many enterprise OS vendors have delivered proprietary software tools, taking a "lock-in" approach and forcing users to create homogenous environments by making integration with applications and solutions from other vendors a nightmare task.
These environments became increasingly complex and rigid and making it difficult for organisations to incorporate new solutions as business requirements changed.
"This approach is changing however, because customers are now understanding the drawbacks of a lock-in type of environment and the costs associated with implementing new products or switching environments, and are beginning to demand greater flexibility and protection of their initial investment," says Ettiene Myburgh from RDB Consulting.
"The move towards greater acceptance of open standards is being driven into the enterprise OS space, creating a ripple effect that is compelling vendors to create systems that offer third party application and hardware support."
In the past, a lack of awareness prevented large organisations from adopting open source and open standards tools.
These solutions too were not trusted, there was a lack of support for products and a shortage of people skilled in maintaining these types of solutions, which meant that opting for a proprietary solution was the only way forward to ensure quality.
"However, over the last few years support for open source tools has grown immensely and communities have evolved offering support and solutions online," adds Myburgh.
"The drive towards greater acceptance of open source has also been motivated by the economic climate, as many organisations are looking to save costs, protect their initial infrastructure investment and work within ever decreasing budgets."
This cost-consciousness has also driven greater interest in outsourcing, and outsourced providers have the ability to deliver on skills organisations may not have in-house, such as knowledge of open standards platforms, further driving the growth of these types of solutions.
Added to this is an ever increasing demand from customers to be able to do what they need to do with systems, to customise them to suit business needs and deliver real benefit to their specific organisations.
Vendor lock-in is no longer acceptable in the market and customers will look for solutions that do not perpetuate this, but offer greater flexibility.
And while it is true that integrating third party solutions into a vendor-homogenous environment was possible in the past, this was a costly exercise that with today's budget conscious environment simply is no longer a viable business practice.
"Together, these factors have created a compelling argument for a more open standards approach to the enterprise OS market, with greater support for software, tools and hardware from third party vendors" notes Cerny.
"Apart from the cost savings factor delivered by greater compatibility with existing investment, a more open approach to enterprise OS, or any other software tool for that matter, delivers a host of additional benefits."
Greater interoperability means fewer issues when it comes to updating systems or implementing new solutions, and vendor neutrality allows for a wider range of choice when it comes to selecting the system that would work best for an organisation.
It also enables more efficient use of existing resources with greater flexibility than a homogenous environment.
This in turn offers greater opportunities to optimise, because of the wider variety of available solution options, ensuring robustness, durability and high quality of enterprise-wide infrastructure.
The business world has changed, and with it the IT world as a result.
Where once IT managers were simply looking for a solution that would enable their business, there are now a host of other factors that need to be considered.
These range from flexibility to the ability to choose from different vendors, ensuring that products from different vendors interoperate, making certain that existing investment is protected, saving costs, lowering total cost of ownership and ensuring that the organisation is not constrained by its IT systems.
"This changing environment has made it more important than ever to carefully consider any IT investment and ensure that systems, especially those that run the enterprise such as the enterprise OS, are able to easily integrate with third party systems to deliver a solution that meets the various and complex needs of the modern IT infrastructure," concludes Myburgh.