Sun is getting serious about Intel. In a briefing at the company?s Menlo Park campus this week, executives claimed the company would dominate the Unix-Intel market.
Sun announced the creation of two competency centres to help software vendors port applications written for its Solaris flavour of Unix to Intel platforms.
The Intel version of Sun's Unix has been around for about six years, but it has never had much impact on the market, partly because - until the past six months - Sun put little effort into promoting it.
But that seems about to change. In recent months, Sun has lined up strong support from hardware vendors for a 64-bit Solaris on Merced. Fujitsu, Siemens-Nixdorf and NCR have all announced that they will standardise on this combination.
?Until we lined up NCR, Fujitsu and SNI, [Solaris for Intel] really wasn?t a major business," admits John McFarlane, who heads Sun?s Solaris software division. McFarlane said that now, for the first time, there are efforts to promote the Intel version of the operating system on specific hardware platforms.
Ed Zander, chief operating officer of Sun, even said on Tuesday that he regretted the delay of Merced, which is now expected in mid 2000 - a step back from the company's traditional confrontational attitude to Intel. While the delay would present opportunities for the company?s Sparc Risc architecture, it would also delay Sun?s plans to push Solaris as the de facto standard Unix, he said.
Zander suggested that Sun would become the dominant Unix on Merced. ?We have an opportunity here to get rid of the other Unixes around," he said.
He also claimed a strong advantage over Windows NT, claiming it would ?eventually? ship in a true 64-bit version, but that NT 5.0 (which will initially ship in 32-bit) will not be able to compete at the high end.
?NT 5.0 contains 16 million lines of new code," Zander said. ?[Microsoft is] going to ask businesses to base mission critical applications on 16 million lines of new code."
Only a few other vendors - SCO, Hewlett Packard and Digital - are working on a 64-bit Unix for Merced, while others are abandoning their operating systems to side with one of the major players. IBM has not yet revealed its plans.
The Unix-on-Intel market is dominated by SCO, whose Open Server and Unixware product lines have a combined market share of about 80 per cent.
SCO has the support of Compaq, Data General, ICL and Unisys. But former SCO partners Siemens-Nixdorf and Fujitsu have recently turned to Sun and Compaq?s support for Unixware is wavering since it acquired Digital?s 64-bit Unix.
McFarlane said he believed that SCO would falter in the 64-bit arena. ?They sell grocery store servers," he claimed. ?They?ve got a nice little niche market. But the big question is: who will the ISVs support?" - a battle he claims Sun will win.
Sun is taking measures to assure this victory. The company is announcing, in partnership with Intel, the creation of two Intel Architecture competency centres in Boston, Massachusetts, and Menlo Park, California. The centres are aimed at helping ISVs and hardware vendors to optimise their software and systems for Solaris on Intel. Initially, they will focus on IA-32, the current generation of Intel processors.
?Our specific target is to go out and get people to port [software] to Solaris on Intel," said Royce Buqag, director of developer relations. He said that, of 12,000 Solaris applications, 3,000 have now been ported to Intel, and more are being added at a rate of 100 to 150 a month.
Buqag said Solaris applications written for Sparc will run on Intel after a simple recompile. However, the competency centres will help developers tune the performance of their applications.
Buqag said his department is mainly addressing the ?low hanging fruit? of existing Solaris developers, rather than developers for competing platforms.
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