The alliance will fill gaps in both companies strategies to get into the market for large-scale computing systems and highlights the weaknesses of NT, Microsoft?s "enterprise" OS, in the very high end of the corporate computing market.
These technologies, however, will not be incorporated into Windows until after the 5.0 version of NT is released, which is due in the second half of 1999 or possibly later.
Through this alliance, Microsoft will gain the tools it needs to make NT reliable enough to use in the highest levels of corporate computing. At the same time, Compaq becomes a significant operating system developer, which in turn could help the company gain server market share, particularly for powerful, standardized servers.
Also of import is that Compaq now as an inside track on the future of NT.
"This will accelerate the suitability of Windows NT for the data center," said Paul Maritz, group vice president for Microsoft.
Under the agreement, Microsoft and Compaq will collaborate on a variety of engineering efforts that will culminate in a future version of Windows NT that will contain components of technologies that Compaq acquired from Digital and Tandem.
In the first phase of the alliance, the two companies will work to make the Unix operating system Compaq acquired from Digital broadly interoperable with NT.
In the longer term, Microsoft will begin to incorporate software components from Compaq into NT. Microsoft, for instance, will incorporate advanced clustering capabilities as well as the "NonStop kernel" from Tandem. Both technologies are used in advanced server computers. These technologies allow users to tie together servers for greater security and efficiency.
The second phase of the agreement, however, occurs over a long period of time, which could mute immediate impact on other Unix vendors.
"Compaq will be able to say we have what will be standard in the future now," said Kurt King, computing analyst with NationsBanc Montgomery Securities. "But if it's NT 6.0, what decade are we talking about. That's not going to be around until 2003."