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Compaq adds to its Unix stable

Compaq's own Tru64 will stand side by side with at least two other versions of Unix in the firm's product lineup when Intel's new 64-bit chips arrive next year.

Compaq's own Tru64 will stand side by side with at least two other versions of Unix in Compaq's product lineup when Intel's new 64-bit chips arrive next year.

Compaq today announced support for Monterey, a combination of the Unix products from IBM and the Santa Cruz Operation. Monterey will join Tru64 Unix and Linux in Compaq's operating system stable, not to mention non-Unix operating systems Windows NT, OpenVMS, and Tandem NonStop.

Compaq's Monterey systems will be positioned as the company's high-volume Unix systems, the location where Compaq currently positions its servers with SCO's Unix products.

Compaq's Monterey move is one of several changes in the Unix landscape, some of them driven by the emergence of Linux, a low-cost Unix clone. Another development is an agreement between Compaq, IBM, Santa Cruz Operation, and Hewlett-Packard to make it easier for software companies to offer their software on different companies' Unix machines.

Monterey is based on core technology from AIX, IBM's version of Unix that runs on its Power architecture, along with technology from SCO's Unix products. Compaq is exploring the possibility of adding some Tru64 Unix technology in the mix, but has not announced any specific technology collaborations, said Tim Yeaton, senior vice president of Unix software at Compaq.

Intel is a major player behind the scenes in the Unix market. The Santa Clara, California, chipmaker has funded efforts to help companies move their Unix products to Intel's 64-bit chips so that the chip becomes the "unifying architecture." That effort encompasses Linux, Silicon Graphics' Irix, and Sun's Solaris, as well as Microsoft's Windows 2000.

Tru64 has been up and running on Intel's simulator for the upcoming 64-bit Intel architecture (IA-64) chip.

Compaq, HP, IBM, SCO, and others agreed last week to publish standards that will let software vendors' products run on any of the companies' Intel-based hardware systems without having to be changed. In addition, the standards mean that it's much easier to recompile the software for easier translation to systems based on other chips, such as IBM's Power chips. Sun Microsystems, a major Unix system vendor, didn't sign up for the initiative.

The standards effort, called the Unix Developer's Guide, is "good news, because that means they're taking the necessary steps to give people the maximum benefit of running systems on the IA-64 platform," said D.H. Brown Associates analyst Tony Iams.

In addition, Compaq will expand the IBM middleware it offers on its computers, executives said. Middleware is software that typically handles interactions between computer users and the heavy-duty servers that store corporate data.

Before Digital Equipment was acquired by Compaq in 1998, the company and Sequent were in a partnership called "Bravo" to develop what then was known as Digital Unix (now Tru64 Unix) into a high-end Unix for IA-64 machines.

Sequent, though, turned its attention to Monterey, because it had similar goals as Bravo and had the backing of Intel and IBM, said Steve Wanless, senior manager for outbound product marketing at Sequent.

Sequent is bringing high-end features to the Monterey project such as technology that lets computers use dozens of processors and stay up and running around the clock. Sequent sells high-end Intel-based computers costing upwards of a half a million dollars and filled with custom hardware.

Standardizing Unix
The Unix Developer's Guide stems from specifications from The Open Group's effort called Unix98 to standardize some Unix features across different companies' versions, Wanless said.

The alignment of the companies behind Unix standards won't stop competition when it comes to sales, said Compaq's Mary McDowell. When it comes to setting standards, "it does makes sense for competitors to come together and collaborate," she said.

The Monterey effort is complementary to Linux, said IBM's Rajid Samant, general manager of Unix at IBM, and Linux is driving application availability, programming skills, and hardware compatibility for Unix overall.

IBM will continue with the Power chip architecture on which its AIX is based, said Samant, though the company hasn't yet decided how the Unix product will be branded, Samant said. "We are working with our partners to determine what's in the best interest," he said.