GartnerGroup attacks IBM-SCO Alliance

GartnerGroup Inc. has issued a report criticizing the nascent alliance between the Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (SCO) and IBM Corp. to develop a new version of Unix on Intel, calling it a highly ambitious project that may prove to be something of a disaster. Project Monterey, as it has been dubbed by participants, is a high-stakes gamble which, should it fail to pay off, could mean more business and a better image for competing Unix vendors like Sun, said GartnerGroup.

Monterey, announced in October of last year, plans a version of SCO's Unixware for 32-bit processors from IBM and Intel Corp., future versions of IBM's AIX operating system incorporating current Unixware technology, and a third version of AIX specifically for Intel's IA-64 Merced processor (expected in the middle of next year).

"IBM has a new, but complex, Unix strategy with reasonably good initial OEM support. However, we believe IBM will unavoidably fragment its development process and confuse users about its platform and OS strategy," the Gartner report concluded. "Users should expect Monterey to have little penetration on IA-32 and limited success on IA-64 by 2003. Users should not expect IBM to propel AIX from a lagging position behind Solaris and HP-UX to a frontrunner position... IBM will have little chance of unifying the industry Unix effort."

IBM's goal, according to GartnerGroup analyst George Weiss, is to expand the IA-32 Intel market by throwing its weight behind SCO, the leader in that market, and positioning itself to leverage AIX's high-end 64-bit OS, while remaining compatible with the large base of SCO Unixware users. Ultimately, as users move from 32-bit to 64-bit OSes, IBM wants to be there with AIX to pick up former SCO Unixware users.

But SCO's Unixware customers only account for about 20 percent of SCO's installed base, said Weiss, and even that fraction may not be an ideal target for upgrades to a 64-bit AIX.

"I think that the majority of SCO's Unixware users will not be ready for a 64-bit environment for several years to come. Many of these customers are small businesses and there is no need for them to upgrade their investment," Weiss said.

The roadmap is a little confusing, and may put off those ISVs (independent software vendors) already supporting a wide variety of Unix flavors, scaring them towards vendors with a more coherent plan.

"ISVs want to take the simplest route to migrating from 32- to 64-bit hardware," said Weiss. "Any problems or slip ups that IBM and SCO have are going to benefit the competition. Sun customers, for example, can stay on Sparc and have 64-bits, or go with the Solaris on Intel strategy, which does require a port to Merced. Still, (the migration) would be less complex in nature than on IBM."

SCO Director of Marketing Mike Foster balks at the suggestion that Sun Microsystems Inc. is a competitor on Intel.

"Sun has no IA-32 presence," said Foster. "They have no clustering on Intel. They're bigoted towards their own platform. Add the AIX numbers to Unixware numbers and you'll see that Sun is not even a competitor. This is a marketshare industry."

SCO, however, has had difficulty coordinating efforts with high-end Unix vendors in the past.

Weiss suggests that the same sort of difficulties faced by Monterey were behind Hewlett-Packard Co.'s departure from the now-defunct 3DA project, involving SCO, HP, and Intel, to design a 64-bit OS based on HP-UX. 3DA, launched in 1996 and loudly touted by participants and a slew of supporters, sounds strangely like Monterey. But, says Foster, there are a few key difference between the two.

"A big difference here is that we have a signed contract with IBM, whereas the arrangement with HP was only a memorandum. IBM is porting many of their applications to Unixware and also has porting centers for ISVs where they can engineer ports for their applications to Unixware and AIX."

Whichever way Monterey goes, Weiss expects the ramifications to be felt throughout the industry. Intel, for example, may stand to gain either way, because backing for Unix on Merced from AIX and IBM is a boost to the market and casts a legitimizing light on Intel's IA-64 architecture. With Unix back on the rise, and the absence of any real 64-bit version of NT, Intel wants to capture as much of the budding 64-bit market as possible, rather than wait around for NT to play catch-up.

Resources:

SCO's Project Monterey home page is at http://www.sco.com/monterey/.

"IBM teams with SCO, Intel on Unix," October 1998 SunWorld news story is at http://www.sunworld.com/swol-10-1998/swol-10-ibmunix.html/.

"SCO, HP ship API for Unix," September 1996 SunWorld news story is at http://www.sunworld.com/sunworldonline/swol-09-1996/swol-09-hp.html/.

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