SCO introduces 64-bit version of Intel Unix

Two years after taking over development of Novell Inc.'s Unix operating system, The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (SCO) last week introduced UnixWare 7, which integrates technology from both companies and sets the stage for Intel Corp.'s move to 64-bit processors.

UnixWare 7 is designed as a common platform for customers now running either SCO's OpenServer Release 5 or Novell's UnixWare 2. The software, which features the core kernel services of UnixWare and user interface and management features developed by SCO, was designed to allow users to migrate applications from either platform with minimal reprogramming, SCO said.

The new operating system also supports both symmetric multiprocessing and clustering hardware solutions, which— combined with the increased performance expected with Intel's forthcoming 64-bit Merced processors— will allow users to build much larger Intel-based Unix systems than were previously possible, the company said.

These capabilities will enable SCO to increase the potential market for Intel-based Unix, which generally has been viewed as offering less performance than Unix systems running on reduced instruction-set computing chips, such as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s SPARC processor.

"This [expands by] an order of magnitude the type of solutions that can be supported by Intel processors," said Steve Sundman, the acting manager of SCO's government area. "This gives [Intel-based Unix] the capability to reach very high up into the enterprise and to supplant both RISC solutions running Unix today as well as the hope for Windows NT-based Intel systems."

Intel's Merced is expected to begin shipping sometime next year.

More than half a dozen major systems vendors announced support for UnixWare 7, including Compaq Computer Corp., Data General Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Unisys Corp.

"What they are doing here is showing [that] UnixWare is continuing to grow with each step it takes," said Chris Le Tocq, a software analyst with Dataquest Inc., San Jose, Calif. UnixWare was always a good operating system, but "now you have a package that is perhaps more applicable for a wider range of applications," Le Tocq said.

However, Le Tocq and other observers said SCO, despite the new technology, may have a difficult time expanding into high-end computing environments. SCO needs to spend more time addressing concerns about reliability, availability and serviceability of the operating system, Le Tocq said.

SCO has made some inroads into the enterprise environment, but the "huge majority" of the company's installed base is small- to midsize customers, said Laurie McCabe, service director at Summit Strategies, a Boston-based IT consulting firm. "How do they gain the mind share?" she asked.

Standards-Focused

The new operating system also includes support for a variety of industry standards, including the Common Desktop Environment graphical user interface.

CDE is part of the Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment (DII COE), a standard computing environment for command and control applications defined by the Defense Information Systems Agency. UnixWare 7, as an alternative, offers a Web-like interface.

Furthermore, SCO designed all aspects of UnixWare 7 to comply fully with the DII COE, although DISA is not yet prepared to certify the system, Sundman said. "We are hopeful a program will be in place so we can verify our COE compliance," he said.

UnixWare 7 also comes bundled with systems management applications. For networks of 50 users or fewer, the system includes SCO-designed management technology. For larger networks, SCO bundles the Unicenter systems management framework from Computer Associates International Inc. so that systems administrators can plug into CA tools.

SCO offers UnixWare 7 in five editions: enterprise, departmental, intranet, messaging and base. Each configuration comes with a different set of tools or features, depending on the requirements of the intended environment.

SCO plans to continue to support its installed base of OpenServer 5 and UnixWare 2 customers.

But the firm believes some federal customers will be interested in upgrading to the new OS. For example, the Internal Revenue Service uses Open-Server and UnixWare. Unix-Ware is offered by NCR Corp. through the IRS' Treasury Multiuser Acquisition Contract.

A stripped-down version of OpenServer also is used by the Defense Department in the embedded system environment. According to Sundman, SCO has designed UnixWare 7 to offer even better performance in that environment— for example, by reducing the overhead associated with any process.

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