Future Unix: The Devil's In The Details

SCO, HP, Novell work out complex agreement

John Foley, Editor, InformationWeek

June 12, 2003

2 Min Read

Just details. That was how Alok Mohan, Santa Cruz Operation's CEO, summed up the work ahead for SCO, Novell, and Hewlett-Packard. The threesome announced on Sept. 19 that Novell will sell its Unix business to SCO and that SCO and HP will co-develop a next-generation Unix operating system. The partners are now waist-deep in those details with much to do before they can hope for success.

The companies are still working through the legal and technical fine points of their complex agreement. Yet to be determined: how Novell's 400-person Unix development staff will be split among the three; how the partners will protect their intellectual property; which pieces of SCO OpenServer 5.0 and Novell's Unixware 2.0 will make up SCO's merged Unix, due in 1997; and how technologies from other Unix suppliers will fit in.

"We have many things to work out," admits Don McGovern, VP of Novell's operating systems division. The partners have set a Nov. 1 deadline to determine how the developers will be divvied up, with personnel changes scheduled for completion by Feb. 1, 1996. McGovern says SCO and HP will probably lease space in Novell's Florham Park, N.J., facility.

Meanwhile, the companies have another ball to juggle: The three are players in a broader industry effort, announced in August, to define a standard 64-bit applications programming interface (API) for Unix (IW, Aug. 28, p. 22). The first draft is due by year's end. "It's going to be close," McGovern says.

Eight vendors are working on the standard. Their kitchen-sink approach incorporates X/Open's single Unix specification, the Common Desktop Environment, the X Win-dow system, and other technologies. The spec is shaping up at a bulky 4,000 APIs.

While some observers predicted a backlash to the Novell-SCO-HP deal among Novell's existing Unix licensees, it hasn't happened. Larry Lytle, CEO of the UnixWare Technology Group, says members are "very upbeat" about the deal. They include AT&T Global Information Solutions, Compaq, Fujitsu, ICL, Olivetti, Tandem, and Unisys.

"We view this as something that doesn't upset our strategy," says David McCann, VP of marketing at Unisys. "It's just a change of supplier." Unisys and other suppliers expect to aid in the development of Unix through alliances with HP or SCO. "We're in discussions with SCO," says McCann.

HP says there's room for partners to work on a 64-bit Unix that will run on P7, the 64-bit microprocessor being developed by HP and Intel. Buzz Walker, program manager of HP's Unix strategy program, says HP has two ideas: creating an architectural team with representatives from other companies, and a scientist-on-loan program.

Both are meant to ease doubts that HP will enjoy a competitive advantage as supplier of both the 64-bit hardware and operating system.

Return to main story, SCO-Novell Deal Was Confusing From The Start

About the Author(s)

John Foley

Editor, InformationWeek

John Foley is director, strategic communications, for Oracle Corp. and a former editor of InformationWeek Government.

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