Digital Equipment and Sequent have announced that they will collaborate on a 64-bit Unix operating system for Intel's IA-64 architecture. The operating system, which does not yet have a name, will be based on Digital Unix, but add technology from Sequent such as support for the Numa (None-Uniform Memory Access) parallel architecture.
The new Unix will offer sourcecode compatibility with Digital Unix on Alpha, and will be able to run 32-bit Unix applications unmodified, Digital stated. The companies will also provide a source-compatible environment to allow applications written for Sequent's 32-bit Dynix/ptx operating system to run.
Digital has indicated that it wants to get other vendors to join the newly formed alliance. "We will be aggressively pushing the licensing of this enhanced Unix", said Digital spokesperson Dick Calandrella. However, the company faces tough competition from Hewlett-Packard, Sun and SCO, all of which are working on 64-bit Intel-versions of their Unix platforms.
In October, Digital announced that it would port its 64-bit Unix from Alpha to Intel's new IA-64 architecture. This announcement was part of a series of agreements reached between Digital and Intel that also included the sale of Digital's Alpha chip manufacturing facility to Intel.
The agreement with Sequent has impressed analysts, because it joins Digital's excellent technical reputation with Sequent's experience in the hot Numa technology. "From a technical point of view, we're impressed by what Digital is doing", said Paul McGuckin, an analyst with Gartner Group. "But they will have to attract at least half a dozen second tier vendors in order to get critical mass."
McGuckin suggests some of the companies now supporting SCO's forthcoming 64-bit Unixware might be convinced to switch allegiance. "At this point, what does SCO have to offer?", asked McGuckin. SCO and HP had agreed in 1995 to develop a common 64-bit Unix for Merced, but it later emerged that both companies would not be offering binary compatibility.
According to McGuckin, Hewlett-Packard is currently in the strongest position to dominate the potentially huge 64-bit Unix on IA-64 market. "They've got the applications, they've got the sales force and they've got the momentum", he remarked.
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