As expected, SCO on Tuesday outlined its plans to take UnixWare to the Data Center. Compaq, Data General and ICL pledged to contribute money and technology towards a robust, enterprise-ready 64-bit version of UnixWare, to run on the forthcoming Intel Merced processor.
News of the group effort behind UnixWare had been steadily leaked to the press in the past week, stealing some of the announcement's thunder. Also, SCO nor its partners were prepared to say how much they are investing in the program (the press release merely mentions a total of "millions of dollars"), or exactly which technology they are contributing. SCO did, however, offer a roadmap for UnixWare, and the operating system received strong spoken endorsements from representatives of Compaq, ICL, DG and Unisys.
SCO's EVP and chief technology officer Doug Michels presented a road map for UnixWare that takes the operating system from 8-processor IA-32 machines today to 32-processor SMP and ccNUMA Merced systems in 1999. The Merced-version of UnixWare - codenamed UnixWare 64 - will also support up to 64 GB of main memory, up from 4 GB.
Michels claimed UnixWare would move from a current 99.9 percent availability to 99.995 percent availability and a mean time between failiures of 20.000 hours. Michels further predicted clusters of 32 nodes or more by the time Merced ships.
UnixWare 7, scheduled to ship in March, already contains some 64-bit technology. Later this year, SCO will release a UnixWare 64 SDK that will allow developers to start work on applications for Merced. Michels reaffirmed that UnixWare 64 will ship as soon as Merced is launched - somewhere in 1999.
Though SCO has strong market share in high-volume entry-level servers, the company has never penetrated the high end of the Unix market. The company now hopes this will change with Merced, expected to bring new levels of performance to the Intel platform.
In return for their investments, Compaq, ICL, DG and Unisys will receive an undisclosed cut of the revenue from the sales of UnixWare in Data Center applications, including income from extensions to UnixWare.
The joint announcement in support of UnixWare is a follow-up to an alliance that went public in 1996. A number of hardware vendors, including the four vendors involved in today's announcement, at that time indicated that they would consider UnixWare their strategic Unix operating system for high-volume enterprise servers. The backers also included NCR and Olivetti. For most of these vendors, this meant dropping their own, proprietary version of Unix, thereby saving themselves the expense of porting this operating system to 64-bit Merced.
Apparently, some of these savings are now being invested back into the UnixWare product.
"In the volume segment, SCO has historically been absolutely dominant", said Jean Bozman, a software analyst with IDC. She said there is little doubt that UnixWare is capable of scaling up to the Data Center, pointing to the fact that it is based on the proven Unix System V Release 4 source code originally developed at Unix System Labs. "SVR4 is capable of going up to 32 processors" she pointed out. "It has been done, for instance by Data General in DG/UX, which was based on the SVR4 source code. But in practice, SCO has been known for selling Unix in smaller machines".
Jean Bozman said she was impressed by SCO's road map and partnerships, as outlined today, but added: "They must now move to execute on this plan".
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