Tru64 loss to be Linux gain

Linux could be the ultimate winner at organizations using Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HP) Tru64 variety of Unix, when the new HP does away with the operating system.

As a result of HP's acquisition of Compaq, the Compaq-brand Tru64, HP's Netserver IA-32 servers, Jornada handhelds and Omnibook notebooks are among the products being phased out.

HP and Compaq began work on the road maps shortly after the merger was announced and unveiled it last week as the new company came into being.

The new combined company has chosen to continue HP's flavor of Unix, incorporating features such as clustering and file systems from Tru64. Its rationale is that HP-UX has a much larger market share and installed base of customers. It also has much broader independent software vendor support than Tru64 Unix.

In New Zealand Tru64 Unix is popular with the scientific community. Genesis Research, AgResearch and HortResearch use it.

The Meteorological Service, based in Wellington, was seriously considering moving to Tru64 from the OpenVMS platform, but following the news of Tru64's fate, IT chief Marco Overdale says the organization will very likely switch to Linux.

AgResearch IT general manager Phillip Lindsay is surprised by the news.

"There was quite a commitment to taking Tru64 to Itanium (Intel's 64-bit platform), which would have made it available on a very cost-effective hardware platform. We have a big commitment to Tru64 Unix with some specialist scientific applications. It certainly has a lot of traction in the scientific market."

Lindsay says the decision to go with HP-UX probably comes from the business market, where HP-UX would be stronger. He says a long phase-out for Tru64 looks likely but his organization probably won't be going to HP-UX.

"I guess it will cause us to reflect. We also have a major commitment to Linux."

In the past six months AgResearch has built a Linux supercomputer from 64 clustered Compaq CPUs to run its bioinformatics application, which processes genomic data. Lindsay says his major concern is not so much which flavor of Unix survives as what happens with Compaq StorageWorks, in which AgResearch has a large investment. The roadmap suggests he has no cause for concern.

HortResearch runs genomic applications and SAP on Tru64. HortResearch computer services manager Howard Nicholson isn't surprised by HP's plans given that Compaq was phasing out Alpha servers.

"It's something we will have to address in the future."

Nicholson says it's too early to say whether the CRI would migrate to HP-UX.

"There are other options like 64-bit Linux and by the time the phase out rolls around there may well be others."

A dissenting voice is Genesis Research Unix administrator Mark Brandwood, whose organization uses Tru64 to run core scientific applications.

"There are so many Tru64 users all over the world they can't phase it out. For me it means I will end up running HP's version of Tru64; just another version of the operating system."

Genesis also runs a Linux-based 80-PC server farm for DNA sequencing but despite "excellent performance" he wouldn't switch major applications to the Linux platform.

Alan Dick, interim chairman of the Decus Compaq user group, says he expected the new company to combine the two products.

"The issue is what will be ported across from Tru64 to the new Unix."

Although he hadn't looked at the product road maps when spoken to, Dick says Tru64's clustering capabilities, in particular, spring to mind.

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