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NEC, Hitachi license HP's 64-bit Unix

Hewlett-Packard licenses its Unix software to Hitachi and NEC, a major endorsement of HP's operating system for Intel's 64-bit Merced chip.

Hewlett-Packard announced a series of licensing and technology alliances with Hitachi, NEC, and Stratus that will make HP's Unix operating system the group's OS of choice for servers based around the upcoming 64-bit Merced processor.

As reported yesterday, the deals highlight the increased efforts by Unix vendors to broaden their customer base through licensing. Nearly all of the major Unix vendors have said they will port their OS to Intel's Merced processor, which comes out toward the end of 1999.

Each Unix vendor is angling to gain the greatest mind and market share around their respective platform because the Unix market will likely consolidate around the two or three most popular versions.

In the past year, both Digital and Sun Microsystems have signed up new licensees to its platform, leaving HP in the lurch.

Hitachi, NEC, and Stratus currently license the 32-bit version of HP-UX. The agreements primarily extend alliances currently in place to the next generation of technology, but also deepen some of the technology and marketing sharing between the companies. NEC, for instance, said HP-UX would become that company's "Unix of choice."

"There is a huge amount of hardware collaboration going on" between Hitachi and HP, said Tom Butler, a Hitachi spokesman.

Bill Russell, vice president and general manager of the enterprise systems group at HP, also vowed to more aggressively license its Unix technology.

"We definitely have change our approach over the past year and have taken a much more aggressive approach to make it more widely available," he said.

Specific product developments were not released. Each company, however, said that they would release servers based around Merced and HP-UX at the time Merced is released.

In addition, these servers will be optimized for the markets that the respective vendors target. NEC, for example, is already working on mainframe-class systems for the telecommuncations market, said a spokesman. Hitachi's Butler said that servers based around HP-UX would contain special OS features for its target markets.

Meanwhile, last week European server giant Siemens Nixdorf adopted Sun's rival Solaris version of Unix for Merced-based servers. Sun previously won the support of systems player NCR last August and Asian giant Fujitsu earlier this month.

Santa Cruz Operation (with Data General) and Digital Equipment (with Sequent) also are making various third-party deals involving their Unix "flavors."

One advantage HP does have is that it has been working closely with Intel in the development of the Merced architecture.

Merced, Intel's first 64-bit processor for servers and workstations, will appear in 1999. A faster version of Merced, called McKinley, is due in 2001, according to sources.

Ben Heskett contributed to this report.