Sun Microsystems (SUNW)
signed up $7 billion systems stalwart NCR
, adding a giant reseller of its operating system software.
The agreement calls for NCR to sell and support Sun's Solaris brand of
Unix operating system (OS) within its line of Intel-based server systems, which
to mainframe sizes. The accord will hit its stride once Intel rolls out
64-bit Merced microprocessor, due to ship in systems sometime in 1999.
In recent weeks, Sun CEO Scott McNealy has increasingly painted the
operating system market as one in which it comes down to a choice between Microsoft Windows NT and Solaris.
Though that statement may be premature, Solaris has been successful
the Unix realm, but the operating system has not gained large acceptance
within systems running Intel processors.
Under terms of the deal, NCR WorldMark server systems will migrate to
Solaris starting in the fourth quarter of this year. These systems cover
four-way multiprocessing systems typically used in departments of
to enterprise servers running on 64 processors or more that can handle
corporate computing loads. Sun will incorporate features of NCR's
Unix offering, called MP-RAS, in Solaris for that company's core
communications, retail, and financial institutions.
"It's a natural combination," said McNealy. "These are not toy
The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) is the
dominant player in the Unix-on-Intel market, but Sun officials have
to position a new version of Solaris as an intranet-oriented platform
departments in recent weeks. This strategy is directly aimed at arch
nemesis Microsoft and its
Windows NT Server OS, but it also highlights a lucrative niche that Sun
believes it can battle for effectively vs. SCO.
"We see this as an indication of a major consolidation in the
[Unix] industry," said Rich Green, vice president of Solaris
Solaris was built to run on Sun's internally developed Sparc-based
but the company moved a version of the OS to Intel-based servers in 1993
and has released versions for both platforms ever since.
Analysts said Sun may have been hamstrung in previous years by the notion
that Solaris might be more popular on Intel-based systems than its own
Sparc-based products. Thus, marketing efforts for Solaris-on-Intel have
been minimal up to now.
But SCO has built a business by offering a version of Unix for Intel-based
systems. According to 1996 numbers from International Data Corporation, SCO
garnered 36 percent of all Unix server software licenses, compared with 13
percent for Sun. Sun is the leader when server and workstation licenses are
combined for the same period.
"What you see here is Sun intends to make up some ground," said Jean
Bozman, an analyst for IDC. "Unix-on-Intel is becoming ever more prevalent."
NCR officials said they had determined that research dollars could be
better spent--given the migration of high-end Intel chips to 64 bits--and found Solaris to be compatible with the company's needs. The company
will offer two-and-half years of updates to its MP-RAS and will continue
support the OS for several years, or as necessary.
The move continues Sun's drive to position itself as the most likely
alternative to Windows NT. And more agreements with Intel-based vendors
be in the offing. "I don't think this is going to be the last of the
Solaris-on-Intel announcements," McNealy said.