Unified Unix under stress

Hewlett-Packard's decision last week to throw its weight behind Windows NT is expected to have far-reaching repercussions across the Unix community.

Hewlett-Packard's decision last week to throw its weight behind Windows NT is expected to have far-reaching repercussions across the Unix community as vendors move to reassess their levels of commitment to delivering a unified Unix on 64-bit platforms.

For example, HP and its major Unix development partner, The Santa Cruz Operation, will be delivering source-code-compatible implementations of a jointly developed Unix on separate PA-RISC and Intel platforms.

"HP has chosen to use a byte order that is compatible with its current HP-UX, not with the Intel standard, which is what we and Novell and NT use," says Scott McGregor, senior vice-president of products at SCO, in Santa Cruz, California. "So that will require recompilation between SCO and HP platforms."

HP is still committed to Unix and will "build bridges between the two operating systems," according to Lewis Platt, president and cheif executive of HP. Those bridges include the ability to build an application that can be automatically compiled to run on either RISC or Merced platforms.

But Microsoft has a more focused NT strategy, and analysts are now doubting HP's long-term commitment to Unix on Intel hardware.

"When HP looks at the x86 markets, they're just not seeing the demand they expected," says Chris Le Tocq, an analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, California. "It's going to be difficult for HP to totally ditch Unix on Intel, but my guess is that it will."

The Microsoft-HP alliance, announced at HP's Palo Alto, California, campus by Platt and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, has three primary focuses: lower the total cost of ownership across enterprises, push Windows NT further into the enterprise market, and provide more interoperability across today's heterogeneous environments.

Analysts say that IT managers can expect the benefits of this partnership to be realised immediately in the form of teams working toward enterprisewide solutions.

"The professional services will work in several areas, including network management and messaging, to create a seamless, tightly integrated environment," says Brad Day, vice-president at Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "IS is looking for a single consultant to go to and say, `This is what I need.'"

The wide-ranging announcement included a number of cross-company endorsements.

* HP reiterated support for Microsoft's Wolfpack NT clustering technology.

* HP will sell Microsoft Exchange.

* Microsoft will integrate its Zero Administration for Windows into HP's enterprise management software.

* HP will combine its OpenView network management software with Microsoft's Systems Management Server.

Hewlett-Packard, in Palo Alto, can be reached at http://www.hp.com. Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com.

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