October 26, 1998 -- IBM Corp. is undertaking a major project with Intel Corp., Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (SCO) and Sequent Computer Systems Inc. that includes developing a version of the Unix operating system for Intel's upcoming 64-bit processor architecture.
The initiative, dubbed "Project Monterey," will lead to three new versions of Unix, executives from the companies said at a press conference today.
One version -- a flavor of SCO's UnixWare for 32-bit processors from IBM and Intel -- incorporates IBM middleware and is available now. Future releases of this version will add IBM's AIX operating system technology.
In addition, IBM will take current UnixWare technology and incorporate it into future versions of AIX to create a second flavor of the Project Monterey platform.
The third offering will be for Intel's IA-64 processor, which is expected to emerge in mid-2000. The Project Monterey version of Unix will be ready when the first IA-64 chip, called Merced, ships. The ultimate goal of the companies is to give software vendors a single platform to port to for 32- and 64-bit Unix systems on Intel and IBM Power microprocessors, they said.
A SCO statement elaborating on its role in the project said that the company will introduce a UnixWare Business edition line for small to medium servers, as well as a DataCenter edition for larger-scale use, in the first half of next year. An updated version of UnixWare 7 incorporating some AIX technology will be out in early 2000, and is intended in part to prepare SCO customers for the release of IA-64.
SCO's written statement referred to the jointly developed Unix system that will run on IA-64 as "Monterey-64."
A key element of the announcement and "a main surprise" is the strong support it received from Intel, said Brad Day, a vice president and senior analyst at Giga Information Group.
"Intel is being pretty precise in that they think this is the premiere (Unix) platform in this space," he said of the future version that will run on IA-64.
Coupled with the major heft that IBM brings to the initiative, the mix will be formidable, Day predicted. Unlike other partnerships SCO has undertaken, its Unix pairing with IBM will bring together compatible engineering teams that will collaborate and not compete, he said.
IBM has created a separate Unix group within its server division to deal specifically with the project, which also involves the investment of "tens of millions of dollars" to recruit ISVs (independent software vendors) to the cause and then to offer them support with marketing and other aspects of work related to the Unix project, executives said during the press conference.
Asked whether IBM has approached Hewlett-Packard Co. and other major hardware vendors that offer flavors of Unix, Bob Stephenson, senior vice president of IBM's server group said during the press conference, "We welcome all comers."
He predicted that additional announcements regarding other corporate participants will be made in coming months.
Asked to confirm that IBM specifically approached Sun Microsystems Inc. to participate in the initiative, Stephenson replied, "We would invite anyone who has an interest in this to participate with us. Sun has shown no interest in this, but we're open."
The project also is open to the notion that Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT is going to increasingly be the operating system option chosen by some enterprise customers. It is "critically important" that Unix users accept that their operating system "must be friendly towards NT and certainly this effort provides for that," Sequent Chairman and CEO Casey Powell said during the press conference.
"People won't have to choose one or the other and they will in fact be able to chose both," he said. "The path to NT in the data center is through Unix."
A number of hardware and software vendors already are voicing support for the initiative, including Unisys Corp., Acer Group, Motorola Inc., Groupe Bull, Netscape Communications Corp., Progress Software Corp. and Informix Corp.
But analyst Day said after the press conference that signing on additional support from another top-tier server vendor will be crucial to the project's success.
"There is a tremendous need between now and the end of the year for another high-volume player," Day said, suggesting that Dell Computer Corp. or Compaq Computer Corp. would fit that bill nicely.
Today's announcement could place pressure on Compaq to embrace an alternative Unix strategy. Compaq recently acquired Digital Equipment Corp. and top company executives have publicly offered strong support for Digital's 64-bit architecture.
Whether that will hold true as the venture between IBM, SCO, Intel and Sequent begins to produce results "is going to be the interesting wait-and-see," Day said, particularly if Compaq sees the potential to lose customers.
The new project is also likely to hasten consolidation of Unix options, Day predicted. The fence sitters who have been unable to choose from among all of the flavors of Unix will find a much leaner list of choices. At the same time, enterprise customers will realize it's okay to invest in both NT and Unix because the project will lead to improved integration capabilities between those operating systems.
But even with the sizable investment and cooperation among participating companies, the Unix versions that emerge from Project Monterey don't have a lock on the market, Day said.
HP, Sun, and the Linux operating system have substantial Unix customer bases and ISV support.
"This will still be an uphill battle ... against HP and Sun," he said.
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Last modified: Monday, October 04, 1999