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SCO, HP ship API for Unix

McNealy criticizes HP at SCO Forum

By Mark Leon, Laura DiDio

September  1996
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SCO gave new meaning to open systems by inviting Sun's CEO Scott McNealy to deliver a keynote address at SCO Forum, in Santa Cruz, CA.

While SCO and Hewlett-Packard Co. put on a display of Unix unity, McNealy bashed Microsoft Corp. and HP's support of Windows NT.

"I'm not sure HP is such a good partner," McNealy said. "They seem to be going over to the dark side."

But McNealy sang the praises of Sun's Java as a way to bridge the different variants of Unix.

"We would like to work closely with SCO on interfaces," McNealy said, in reference to ironing out the differences in Unix implementations between leading vendors. "That's the beauty of Java...all the ISV interface differences will go away."

Users aren't likely to benefit from these kinds of political maneuvers, according to some ISVs.

"The writing is on the wall with NT 4.0," said Tony Zahler, director of marketing at Lone Star Software Corp., in Mount Airy, MD. "[Unix vendors] need to put their differences of the last 20 years behind them, [but] Java is not the panacea for a unified development platform."

Others noted that Java is still not fully mature.

"Performance [with Java] is still a drawback," said Steve McWhirter, sales director for Gradient Technologies Inc., in Lindfield, Australia. "But I don't think it is going to be the be-all and end-all in interfaces."

McNealy was also at odds with SCO, which has a Windows-friendly strategy, when he said Java and the network computer could replace Microsoft Office applications.


SCO and Hewlett-Packard recently began to ship the initial API specification for their jointly developed 64-bit Unix operating system.

The availability of a common application programming interface (API) based on Intel Corp.'s forthcoming Merced chip set family will give businesses the flexibility to run Unix and Windows applications on any HP, SCO OpenServer, and SCO UnixWare server, according to Victor Krutul, director of strategic planning at SCO.

SCO and HP are working with major systems vendors to ensure full compatibility between those vendors' Unix server platforms and the forthcoming SCO/HP 64-bit 3DA Unix operating system. Those vendors include Compaq Computer Corp., Data General Corp., ICL, Olivetti USA, Siemens/Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG, and Unisys Corp.

But that isn't quite an industry-wide initiative. There are still other versions of Unix -- most notably Sun Microsystems' Solaris, IBM's AIX, and Digital Equipment Corp.'s Digital Unix -- that will compete with the HP/SCO initiative.

Jean S. Bozman, a Unix server analyst at International Data Corp. in Mountain View, CA, said the API could ultimately make Unix a stronger platform for corporate America. But she also offered a cautionary note. The plan "is a very complex undertaking," she said.

"And we'll also have to watch for differences in application development techniques and whether older applications will have to be modified as users migrate," Bozman said.

The first version of the API will define how the SCO/HP operating system will work with the Open Group's Distributed Computing Environment, X.11, the Open Group's Motif, and network, graphics, management and Internet services.

Future versions of the SCO/HP 64/32-bit Unix API specification will address more advanced features such as clustering and security, Krutul said.

The API will be available around the middle of next year, Krutul said.

That suits users such as Dwight Wolfe, manager of Unix systems at CNA Insurance Co.'s Personal Lines Division in Chicago. CNA has a heterogeneous environment that includes several flavors of Unix, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT Server and Novell Inc.'s NetWare.

Wolfe said he would like to be able to run the same applications across all his server hardware.

SCO and HP managers said their companies are working closely with Intel to ensure that their 3DA 64/32-bit Unix systems will ship soon after Intel's Merced chip set becomes available in volume.

All told, the API "will ultimately help Unix assume its rightful role in the industry as the [operating system] that's better suited than Windows NT to run mission-critical" applications, said David Coursey, editor of "," an industry newsletter in San Mateo, CA. --Laura DiDio, Computerworld, and Mark Leon, InfoWorld

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