IBM Rallies Behind 64-Bit Unix Version

IBM Corp., long seen as oddly out-of-step in neglecting to port its AIX Unix variant to the Intel architecture, stunned the industry this week with its strategy to port AIX to IA-64.

The initiative, dubbed Project Monterey, will lead to three new versions of Unix, which should ultimately merge into one version for AIX. IBM, SCO Inc., and Sequent Computer Systems are cooperating on the project.

The initial thrust of Monterey will be a flavor of SCO's UnixWare for 32-bit Intel processors, bolstered by the incorporation of IBM middleware and AIX operating system technology. Additionally, IBM will include UnixWare technology into future versions of AIX.

Monterey will culminate in "Monterey-64," combining AIX and UnixWare functionality. The OS will be made available simultaneously with Merced, Bob Stephenson, senior vice president of IBM's server group said.

Although Intel's endorsement of the project was something of a surprise (the company joined the three principals at a press conference announcing Monterey), the company has laid its cards on the table, said Brad Day, vice president and senior analyst at the Giga Information Group, in Norwell, Massachusetts.

"Intel is being pretty precise in that they think this is the premiere [Unix] platform in this space," Day said.

The effort brings to four the number of major Unix development projects for IA-64 and beyond. Already, Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc., and Compaq Computer Corp. have enlisted a number of development partners for the 21st-century Unix. IBM to date had been conspicuously absent from any of these development projects. That has changed overnight, according to one analyst.

"It's an impressive move on IBM's part," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata, in Nashua, N.H. "It's not clean, the other players do have baggage, but it's pragmatic. By grabbing SCO, [IBM] has access to the volume, shrink-wrapped end of the Unix market."

Sequent's existing agreement with DEC to develop a high-end Unix for IA-64, meanwhile, lost its luster once DEC was acquired by Compaq, Eunice said.

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