With the enemy in plain view, Unix vendors will again circle the wagons at the UniForum show in San Francisco in two weeks.
In yet another, nearly annual, attempt to unify Unix, devoted vendors and organisations will offer up a plan to strengthen Unix in the face of Windows NT. The centerpiece of Unix solidarity this year is the Single Unix Specification, Version 2, which is a set of standard interfaces that builds on Unix '95, also known as Spec 1170.
The Open Group standards body is due to offer branding for products that comply with the new specifications by mid-1998, .
New in Version 2 are APIs for real-time applications, enhanced multithreading and large-file handling, and dynamic linking. Developers using the specifications can expect significant performance gains on multiprocessor hardware, according to Open Group officials.
One analyst noted that the force driving Unix vendors toward unity is also the force they are struggling against - Windows NT - which will cause further consolidation in the Unix market.
"NT will force the Unix community to unify," says Jon Oltsik, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "Three Unix OSes will survive after Intel comes out with Merced: AIX, Solaris, and a combined SCO/HP Unix. Everyone else is going to be a niche player."
Although many UniForum participants will fight to protect Unix's market share from encroaching by NT, the show will spotlight integration of the two operating systems.
"The show's mission-critical track will address NT-Unix cross-platform integration," says Thomas E. Mace, president of UniForum.
Approximately one-third of the exhibitors at the show use NT as their primary platform, Mace says.
"I can think of no major Unix software ISV that isn't doing something with NT," says Rich Mirabella, vice president of marketing for Globetrotter Software, in Campbell, California. "Porting from one version of Unix to another isn't that hard. What's hard is porting from Unix to NT."