SNI banking on Intel's 64-bit chips, Solaris

Siemens Nixdorf last week detailed its future strategy for the Unix market, betting on Intel's new 64-bit chips and Sun Microsystem's Solaris operating system.

At a teleconference in Munich last week, Robert Hoog - SNI board member in charge of open enterprise computing - said SNI plans to equip all of its future servers with Intel's IA-64 microprocessors. As expected, SNI also announced it will fully support the version of Solaris that will run on the new Intel architecture.

The company plans to introduce its RM line of servers based on Merced, the code-name for the first member of the IA-64 processor family, immediately after its expected release in the second quarter of next year, according to Hoog.

SNI's move towards the new technology reflects a larger industry trend, he said, which is as significant as the technological shift that took place in the late '80s when major vendors moved to RISC (reduced instruction set computer) architecture processors.

"It appears that the Intel IA-64 technology offers the greatest potential for performance improvements," Hoog later told IDG. "We are giving our customers advance notice."

SNI will adapt its NT Primergy servers, Unix RM servers as well as its BS2000 mainframes to the IA-64 technology. The company expects demand to pick up sometime in 2000, and sees its current line of RM servers and MIPS microprocessor-based servers coexisting with the newer Intel servers at least until 2002, Hoog said. He also said SNI will continue to update these older versions until that time.

The second cornerstone of the new Unix strategy is a technology agreement announced last week between SNI and Sun. SNI sees Solaris as a strategic Unix OS for its future Intel-based server family and will offer its customers full support for Solaris, Hoog said. The partnership should accelerate Solaris' development as the leading operating environment, according to a strategy paper posted a week ago on SNI's Web site.

The two companies will also work together to further develop Solaris. That will provide Sun with access to SNI's Reliant Unix enterprise class features, such as high-availability, clustering and data management features, and the latest X/Open standard Unix98, the strategy paper said.

Siemens Nixdorf will also join Sun's Solaris System Business Partners Business Council - which sets the direction for future improvements to Solaris - and will cooperate in the Sun Development Framework.

Solaris on Intel enjoys broad support from software vendors such as SAP AG, Oracle, Informix Software and Baan, which offers customers a large number of applications, according to the SNI strategy paper. Siemens Nixdorf will also move its value-added layered software to Solaris.

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