Windows NT/2000 may or may not be out of your equation depending on who you ask. If you ask Microsoft, your database should scale well. But I believe that most DBAs would suggest a Unix platform if you are worried about scalability (and availability). Win2000 has gotten better, but most people tend to favor Unix. Of course, you could start off on Windows and then transport your database to a Unix platform in the future should your application need to scale to handle future growth. Or you could just start off on a Unix platform from the beginning.
Both HP-Unix and Sun Solaris are very fine systems. If I had to choose one, I would choose Solaris over HP. Solaris is Oracle's development platform for the Oracle RDBMS. They write the database code on Solaris first and the port it over to HP (and other platforms) later. New releases, bug fixes, and patchsets appear for Solaris before other platforms. Also, Solaris is called a "Tier 1" platform by Oracle. Platforms that are Tier 1 receive the new releases, bug fixes, and patchsets before any platform in Tier 2 or 3. Tier 1 platforms include Sun Solaris, Windows NT/2000 and Linux. HP-Unix is a Tier 2 platform for Oracle. While HP-Unix is a very good Unix platform, it does not receive the attention from Oracle that Tier 1 platforms do. If at all possible, I like to stay on Tier 1 platforms. And Sun Solaris is the best one for that!
You also have to take into account your organization's current skill set. Are all of your System Administrators HP literate or Sun literate? If all your SysAdmins work on HP systems, you may encounter resistance to change and a big learning curve for them to get up to speed on a Solaris platform. This may or may not help make your decision for you.
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This was first published in June 2001