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McNealy Seeks HP-Sun Unix Union

In a brief memo HP's Mark Hurd, Scott McNealy urged him to agree to converge HP-UX with Sun's Solaris 10. But some think it's more of a PR stunt than a real offer.

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy is urging rival Hewlett-Packard to unite its HP-UX Unix operating system with Sun's Solaris Unix operating system – but is the offer for real?

Some think not. In a brief memo written March 1 to HP CEO Mark Hurd -- broadly distributed by Sun to media outlets Wednesday-- McNealy urged HP to agree to converge HP-UX with Sun's Solaris 10.

Although the memo appears sincere, McNealy, known for publicly baiting rivals, states his case by asserting that HP has abandoned its Unix customers and developers and has relegated its Unix operating system to Intel's Itanium system.

Sun and HP have been battling over market share numbers distributed by IDC recently that show HP in the leading position for selling high-end enterprise Unix systems.

The memo was distributed just one day before HP CEO Hurd, Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison are slated to deliver a visionary outlook on enterprise computing and news about HP's high-end Integrity servers.

"We've both delivered terrific products over the years. But HP has also made strategic decisions that compel its customers, developers and partners to change: ending development of your enterprise servers based on PA-RISC, and relegating your operating system, HP-UX, to Itanium," McNealy wrote Hurd.

McNealy said HP should commit to converge HP-UX with Sun's Solaris 10 Unix -- which iruns on servers with Intel's Xeon and AMD's Opteron processors.

HP has been a strong supporter of Linux and Windows for industry-standard servers but has committed to supporting HP-UX for Intel's high-end 64-bit Itanium architecture.

Sun, in contrast, has shown inconsistent, unenthusiastic support for Linux, which competes directly against Unix, and put a stake in the ground last year by announcing plans to open source Solaris under its own OSI-approved license rather than back Linux like its rivals HP and IBM.

"By combining our resources and investments, HP's customer and developer communities would gain the benefit of the fastest growing operating system in the marketplace: improved economics, rapid innovation, and a rich future roadmap otherwise unavailable to your Proliant user base, given that HP-UX doesn't run on Proliant," McNealy wrote.

McNealy pointed out that HP has made available 64-bit Solaris 10 on its Proliant servers to fill a hole HP-UX 11i cannot provide since HP-UX is not available on industry standard servers.

The Sun CEO said HP should move its Unix users to Solaris rather than force an "expensive and risky transition with an uncertain future."

One former Sun integrator called the memo "wierd" and unlikely to interest HP or its customers.

"Two legacy environments aren't better than one,' said the integrator, who declined to be named. "Of course it would be a cheaper exit strategy. Interestingly there has never really been a time when there was just one commercial UNIX platform -- SCO, BSD, System V, etc. Getting back to a single open source maintained platform might make sense."

But Sun insisted that the proposal is no joke.

"HP's full support of Solaris 10 across its enterprise product line would deliver significant benefits to customers. We are serious in our offer to work with HP to converge Solaris and HP-UX," said Tom Goguen, vice president of Systems Software for Sun Microsystems, in an e-mail to CRN.

Barbara Darrow contributed to this story.

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