Unix, Intel: A marriage made in Santa Cruz

The cold and fog of Santa Cruz, California, in August couldn't dampen the spirits of Unix enthusiasts as this year's SCO Forum kicked off with Druid prognosticator Sumad Artsmen, the alter-ego of SCO evangelist Tony Baines, declaring the "new millennium is now" for Unix.

Among the predictions offered by "Artsmen" were the inability of Windows NT to destroy Unix, Intel's upcoming Merced chip as the greatest volume opportunity Unix has ever seen, and the erosion of proprietary Unix strongholds due to the emergence of ever-more powerful Intel servers.

"I see a renewed sense of purpose in the Unix community," Baines said.

Baines [Artsmen] was followed to the stage by SCO's chairman and CEO, Doug Michels, who continued the Unix lovefest by rattling off analyst figures and SCO sales numbers demonstrating extensive growth and potential for Unix, most of which will ride the shoulders of Intel and their IA-64 architecture.

"In spite of all the rumours and opinions that Unix would end, it didn't," Michels said. "Most of the growth and opportunity is on the Intel platform, and when Merced kicks in, that's gonna be the signal for the Unix on Intel market to really blast off."

Michels pointed to a general dissatisfaction with Windows NT as an enterprise-level operating system and the demise of the client/server computing model as the main reasons for the continued success of Unix and the rosy outlook for its future. The driving force behind this change, Michels said, is the internet.

"We're in a period with some of the most disruptive technologies I've ever seen, and the internet is the most disruptive," Michels said. "The beginning of the new millennium is not the end of this period of change, it could even be the beginning of change going into hyper-drive."

The net result of that change, Michels said, is a computing environment in which it no longer matters what is on a user's desktop; a world in which servers rule and price/performance for mission-critical servers can reach new heights.

"There is a huge opportunity with Monterey and Merced," Michels said. "The Intel architecture has the potential to displace the proprietary, RISC, and mainframe architectures that have been kings for so long."

To drive that point home, Michels was joined on stage by representatives from each of the Project Monterey partner companies: Compaq, IBM, Intel, and Sequent. The partners announced that they have identified specific target markets for which they will develop "solution stacks", or complete enterprise solutions. Those industries are enterprise resource planning, electronic commerce, business intelligence, and supply management.

The companies also announced that Samsung has signed on as an OEM partner in Project Monterey and Computer Associates has now endorsed the project. Finally, the partners displayed a Project Monterey road map that showed development environment and IA-64 migration projects on time, with initial product shipments scheduled for the fourth quarter of next year.

In addition to promoting Unix on Intel, Michels said it will be important for Unix vendors to continue their embrace of the open-source community, most notably Linux. While many see Linux as a threat, Michels said it is simply an extension of software practices that have been around for years, and companies such as SCO can benefit from the open-source movement through collaboration and adding value with quality control and a well-defined road map.

"The whole idea of shared development has been ubiquitous in Unix for years," Michels said. "The internet has magnified that and open source is bringing collaborative development to a new level."

In a demonstration of that support for open source software, SCO on Monday announced a professional services offering that will evaluate a customer's need in an effort to help them decide if Linux is right for them. That, Michels said, will help customers take some of the risk out of the open-source world, which can be as dangerous as it can be beneficial.

"The open-source model is very important to us, but it's not a panacea," Michels said. "It's much more of a wild west kind of world, with huge opportunities and huge risks."

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