Up-to the-minute news on Sun's rivals
Sun's Tuesday announcement targeted not only HP but also IBM and Silicon Graphics Inc. These companies are shifting their low-end workstations from Unix system software to Windows NT.
Digital will work with Sequent Computer Systems Inc. on the port, which will result in the renaming of Digital Unix. Officials did not say what the new name of the operating system would be. Along the way it will actively pursue support from additional technology partners and licensees, according to Digital officials who discussed the announcement in a teleconference today.
"This is the most important step in underscoring our commitment to Unix on both Alpha and Intel platforms, and will result in the most interoperable Unix with Windows NT," Robert Palmer, Digital's chairman, president and CEO, said in the teleconference.
The release of the augmented Digital Unix will be timed to coincide with Intel's release of Merced, which is expected to take place sometime during 1999, Palmer said.
Digital's intention to port Digital Unix to the Intel architecture was announced in October as part of the settlement of cross-lawsuits filed by Digital and Intel concerning patents and nondisclosure agreements about their technologies.
"With Digital Unix on both Intel and Alpha platforms, we'll offer the most scaleable and high performance solution in the industry, and at the same time expand the leadership of Digital Unix into new markets," Palmer said.
The initiative is intended to meet the needs of enterprise-level customers, independent software developers and OEMs who require a low-risk migration path and product integration for IA-64, said Casey Powell, Sequent's chairman and CEO.
The port will involve the integration of technology from Sequent's DYNIX/ptx IA-32 Unix operating system, including Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) technology, Powell said.
Sequent for some time has sought a partner with which to develop a new Unix platform, but its decision to work with Digital was a last minute one, prompted by the settlement of Digital's lawsuit with Intel, Powell said.
Sequent was "very far down the road" to forging an agreement to work with Sun Microsystems Inc. and its Solaris operating system, Powell said. The decision to partner with Digital was swayed by the compatibility between the Alpha and Intel processors, he said.
"What Digital needs if it's to make Digital Unix safe for IA-64 is a heck of a lot more Intel expertise then they currently have, and Sequent brings that to the party," said Terry Shannon, publisher of the Ashland, Massachusetts-based industry newsletter, Shannon Knows DEC.
"Bear in mind, Digital was out of the loop with the latest developments at Intel for about six months because of the lawsuit," Shannon said.
The advantages to Digital of partnering with Sequent will likely go beyond the help it gets with porting Digital Unix to Merced. The company will also benefit from Sequent's NUMA technology, elements of which may well be implemented in Digital's forthcoming enterprise server, codenamed Wildfire, Shannon said.
According to Digital, the port will provide:
--James Niccolai and Rebecca Sykes, IDG News Service
Linux is a Posix-based, multiuser, multitasking operating system which is available for free over the Internet and runs on processors from Intel Corp., as well as Sparc, Alpha and older Motorola-based processors. Approximately 14 vendors, including Red Hat, package customized versions of Linux with software and services for sale on CD-ROM.
Collective Technologies' AnswerDesk will provide Red Hat Linux users with 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week support, according to a statement from Red Hat. The AnswerDesk uses a proprietary database to track customer calls, so that users are connected to a support technician who can be apprised at a glance of the caller's past problems and solutions, the statement said. Users can prepay AnswerDesk service hours or pay by the minute with a credit card, it said.
Previously Red Hat offered only installation support, via e-mail, because Linux users have historically been technologically sophisticated, according to Melissa Trenkle, a spokeswoman for the company, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
"We just felt that as we started reaching greater and wider audiences that wasn't enough any more," Trenkle said.
One analyst said that Red Hat's decision to offer packaged Linux support was a smart move that should fuel the growth of the operating system.
"I like the idea of providing a much more commercial, focused support structure, because I've always viewed that [lack] as one of the obstacles to its success," said Dan Kusnetzky, director of operating environments research at International Data Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I'm glad to see that Red Hat is stepping up to the challenge."
Because Linux is available via free download, the precise number of users is elusive, but according to Kusnetzky, Linux is probably on par with the Macintosh OS. Kusnetzky estimates that between 2 million and 6 million copies of Linux were installed in 1997, compared with around 3.8 million copies of the MacOS, over 7 million copies of Microsoft Corp.'s NT Workstation and 1.2 million copies of IBM's OS/2.
Red Hat's decision to offer telephone support makes sense in light of changes IDC has detected in how technology buying decisions are made. Six years ago and earlier, technology professionals made most purchasing decisions, but increasingly that power is assigned to businesspeople, who need to be impressed not just with the technology but with the whole package, according to Kusnetzky.
"The businesspeople need to hear the whole support story," Kusnetzky said.
According to Red Hat's Trenkle, who estimated that there are between 5 million and 7 million Linux users, the use of Linux to make the recent US$200 million movie "Titanic" is indicative of the operating system's increasing relevance.
"It's sort of interesting that in the most expensive movie every made, the graphics were rendered with free Linux," Trenkle said.
--Rebecca Sykes, IDG News Service
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