Behind the News
Analysis of Industry Events
Once Again, Unix Unification Announced
At UniForum '96, Hewlett-Packard and the Santa Cruz Operation offered press
and other onlookers a glimpse of how they will work together to develop
a new generation of Unix. Unlike the "grand alliance" style of
announcements at past UniForum Conferences (such as the Advanced Computing
Environment initiative of 1992 or the Common Open Software Environment of
1994), this time the podium was not filled with a chorus of vendor executives,
each waiting their turn to praise the effort and promise support for the
64-bit operating system technology that is expected to emerge later this
year from the joint development effort. Nor were all of the OEMs that SCO
inherited from Novell on hand to show their support for Unix being under
new management. On the other hand, the characterization by Scott McNealy,
Sun Microsystems CEO, of the alliance as "two little companies"
claiming to be redefining Unix is certainly an understatement.
Plenty of work lies ahead for the HP/SCO team that is charged with delivering
64-bit technology for the target architecture of the Intel microprocessor
code-named Merced (and popularly known as P7). "We should start by
removing the redundancies and deadwood that have made Unix bulkier than
it need be," said Lew Platt, HP CEO, during his keynote address, which
happened to precede the announcement.
Doug Michels, executive vice president and chief technology officer of SCO,
who estimates that there are tens of millions of lines of well-modularized
Unix source code to choose from, described how the work will proceed. "Rather
than trying to make everyone's contributions fit into the next-generation
Unix, we'll lay everything on the table and then choose the best of breed,"
Much of this work will be done by Unix developers in Florham Park, NJ, who
have seen two changes of ownership in just over three years, which began
when AT&T divested itself of Unix System Laboratories. According to
Billye Abrams, marketing manager for HP's open systems software division
in Cupertino, CA, about 200 developers were hired from an available pool
of over 350.
Carl Ziegler, chief technology officer of the Unix Technology Group, also
in Florham Park, which promotes the distribution of UnixWare, says that
morale had been low after Novell's decision to get out of the Unix business
last year. The New Jersey-based developers chosen by HP are delighted to
have found both a new employer and a new sponsor. "Everyone here realizes
that this is UnixWare's last chance to evolve into a high-volume operating
system," says Ziegler. "If HP and SCO botch this effort, potential
OEMs will buy their Unix from someone else."
Is the latest effort to create a unified Unix driven by ideals or fear?
Platt ended his keynote address by saying that the spirit of collaboration
and competition has motivated HP to move Unix forward. But Judith Hurwitz,
president of Hurwitz Consulting of Newton, MA, sees reasons to worry about
the monolithic Microsoft platform. "Microsoft has 2,000 developers
eating, drinking and sleeping NT," she says.
How to Join In
These days, even an alliance between two vendors typically trails a long
list of participants. Scott MacGregor, SCO senior vice president of products,
described four ways that other companies could participate in this alliance:
contribute core technology, optimize it, productize it or resell it. Most
of the core technology will come from HP's developers (not only HP-UX developers
but also developers of the OpenView system management software and other
capabilities that will be integrated at the operating system level), SCO's
Open Server development team and the former UnixWare developers hired for
The optimization will come in large part from chip vendors, primarily Intel.
In addition, NEC announced that it has set up a facility in San Jose, CA,
to develop a low-end MIPS chip to run this new operating system on small-scale
devices, such as point-of-sale systems. At the high end, Hitachi plans to
develop a mainframe-level implementation.
Productizers are yet to be announced. According to Michels, they will be
companies that add value by developing device drivers and other components
that will run on the new OS.
The reseller sector will determine whether this operating system can gain
market share from SunSoft Solaris, the best-selling Unix brand name. For
obvious reasons, computer vendors prefer not to license the operating system
of a direct competitor. Therefore, it may be attractive to OEMs to be able
to license from a software vendor such as SCO rather than HP. This perhaps
is one reason that Alok Mohan, SCO CEO, took pains in his own keynote to
position the company as a technology provider. Former Novell OEMs Unisys,
ICL, NCR (switching back from being called AT&T Global Information Systems)
and the IBM PC Server Group have announced their intentions to resell this
operating system when it becomes available in late 1997 or 1998.
Henry Robinson, director of technology planning for Pyramid Technology in
San Jose, explains why buying an operating system developed by other companies
makes more sense than developing one's own. "To create our own version
of Unix would require tremendous research and development simply to make
the glue, and glue does not differentiate us in our customers' eyes,"
he says. "Being able to deliver solutions to our customers faster and
less expensively is what makes the real difference."
Sun Rains on Parade
As McNealy's aside indicated, Sun, which bought perpetual rights to Unix
source code from Novell about two years ago, was not impressed by the announcement
from HP and SCO. In fact, the company was anxious to "correct the impression
given by their rhetoric," said Janpieter Scheerder, president of the
SunSoft subsidiary. "They don't set the direction for Unix, and any
allusion to that is nonsense."
In particular, Scheerder emphasized that SunSoft already has a 64-bit implementation
of Solaris supporting some functions on its UltraSparc chip and will provide
64-bit Solaris for the Intel platform. "Our relation with Intel is
to leverage volume potential," he said. "We'll support only their
volume product--P7." (Representatives of Digital Equipment Corp. were
quick to point out that they, too, have a full 64-bit implementation of
Digital Unix on their Alpha processor.)
Scheerder also noted that the joint press conference, held two hours after
The Open Group's announcement, was inappropriate to that spirit of agreement.
"The wars aren't still going on," he said. "The Unix split
is gone. Operating environments get sold today, not operating systems. We
need standards and interfaces." --Peggy King
X/Open, OSF Form The Open Group
In what was widely seen as an inevitable move, X/Open Co. and Open Software
Foundation (OSF) have decided to form a consolidated organization known
as The Open Group. Eventually to be run by a single management team, the
organization will retain X/Open's headquarters in Reading, England, and
OSF's in Cambridge, MA, as well as other offices. A search is under way
for a president and CEO for the new organization, who is expected to operate
out of Cambridge. A single advisory board for The Open Group will consist
of representatives from both X/Open and OSF.
Announced in February at UniForum '96 in San Francisco, the consolidation
of the industry's two most prominent open systems consortia was greeted
with nods of approval. "Unix is getting rational in its old age,"
said Doug Michels, executive vice president and chief technical officer
of the Santa Cruz Operation. "This is an obvious evolution that probably
should have happened sooner."
Also approving were users like Denis Brown, vice president and general manager
of PRC, a Vienna, VA, systems integration and consulting firm. "I think
it's a real win-win situation. It will be good for the user," Brown
said. The new structure will funnel user requirements through a single Open
Group Customer Council (OGCC), which becomes a more powerful voice in the
Viewed historically, the move is part of a continuing consolidation in industry
consortia that began in late 1993 when Unix International, a promoter of
Unix System V, was disbanded. In 1994 OSF reorganized and laid off about
half of its staff, deciding to outsource product development and giving
X/Open a role in OSF activities. During the meetings that led to that announcement
at UniForum '94, there was widespread speculation that the "new OSF"
would eventually change its name. This consolidation is a step toward that
destination, although X/Open and OSF both now say they will retain their
names and trademarks.
Even though the president of the new organization has not been appointed,
there was information on who it will not be. Geoff Morris, X/Open president
and CEO, said he will not be a candidate but will remain as president of
X/Open. James Bell, interim president and CEO of OSF while on leave from
Hewlett-Packard, said he would return to HP as director of open systems
alliances when The Open Group chooses its new leader.
In conjunction with the consolidation, UniForum tightened its relationship
with the combined consortia, announcing that blocks of individual UniForum
memberships would be made available to all customer members of The Open
Group. In addition, Open Group sponsors will become corporate and end-user
sponsors of UniForum. "It's a natural fit," said Bell, who also
serves on the UniForum board of directors. "We help open systems professionals
grow, and this enables The Open Group's members to take advantage of the
tools that UniForum has to offer."
"We are doing something important for the industry," said Richard
Jaross, UniForum executive director. "This is what the industry wants
us to do." Collaboration of The Open Group with the UnixWare Technology
Group, the Object Management Group, the World Wide Web Consortium and the
Petrotechnical Open Software Corp. (an oil and gas industry group) was also
X/Open and OSF say they plan to maintain the bulk of their current activities.
X/Open will continue to develop interface specifications such as the Single
UNIX Specification, which emerged from the Spec 1170 proposal initiated
in 1993. OSF plans to keep facilitating collaboration among users, system
vendors and software vendors in developing software technology such as its
Distributed Computing Environment (DCE) and the Motif user interface, which
is employed in the Unix Common Desktop Environment. In addition to the new
customer council, The Open Group will have a single marketing council serving
both X/Open and OSF.
The OGCC replaces X/Open's User Council and OSF's End-User Forum. It will
consist of representatives of more than 300 companies, research institutions
and government agencies. Three of its members will sit and vote on the 17-member
Open Group Advisory Board. The OGCC was to hold its inaugural meeting early
in March in San Francisco.
In the future, The Open Group will focus on three main areas, Morris said:
platform development, distributed computing and the Internet. In the platform
development area, the organization plans to extend portability and scalability.
In distributed computing, the emphasis will be on managing a diversity of
computing solutions. In the Internet area, the focus will be on establishing
secure, open and robust systems for electronic commerce. Already under way
is a project to integrate the Java programming language with DCE-Web, a
technology that applies DCE to enhance the Web, particularly in the areas
of security and naming. (For more on these initiatives, see Inside
The Open Group)
In conjunction with The Open Group's formation, it was also revealed that
leading Unix system suppliers have delivered to X/Open a proposal that extends
the Single UNIX Specification to encompass 64-bit application environments.
The initiative is aimed at reducing the cost and complexity of multiplatform
application and system software development, by smoothing migration of 32-bit
programs to 64-bit platforms. According to Mike Lambert, X/Open chief technology
officer, products that conform to the new specification should be available
in about two years.