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Unix Unity Foundering?

HP, SCO split on fundamental issues

Hewlett-Packard and the Santa Cruz Operation will meet with other Unix suppliers and independent software vendors in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Dec. 12 and 13 amid growing concern that HP and SCO's three-month-old effort to unify Unix already has hit a stumbling block.

The HP-SCO partnership is part of a Sept. 20 deal that included SCO buying Novell's Unix business (IW, Oct. 2, p. 18). The two companies promised to meld HP's HP-UX, SCO's OpenServer, and Novell's UnixWare into a single Unix. But HP and SCO have yet to agree on a source base-the foundation of the operating system. "For a lot of manufacturers, the big question is: Are we talking about a true merger of development activities, or about things that never quite merge?" asks a source close to the situation. Failure to agree on a source base would complicate the development effort for independent software vendors and corporate customers, and raise interoperability and portability concerns.

For its part, SCO plans to merge UnixWare, which is based on the Unix System V Release 4.2 (SVR4.2) source code, and OpenServer, which is based on the older Unix System V Release 3.2 (SVR3.2), into a common operating system. Code-named Gemini, it will be released in mid-'97. Mike Shelton, SCO's director of marketing, says SCO will use SVR4.2 as the kernel in Gemini. HP plans to use a hybrid source base for White Box, the 64-bit Unix operating system it will develop by combining SCO's Gemini with its own HP-UX. "We like to think of it as being neither SVR3.2 or SVR4.2 or both," says Doug Johnson, HP's strategic planning and programs manager.

HP's decision is difficult, according to the source, because it would require a huge development effort to port HP-UX, which is based on SVR3.2, to an SVR4.2 kernel. There also could be other problems. HP may favor some Unix development partners at the expense of others. "I see an old approach occurring here-divide and control," the source says.

Officials at HP and SCO insist there has been no change in plan, and that it's just a matter of working out the details. "I wish I could tell you it's a simple deal and it's done," says SCO's Shelton. Neither HP nor SCO could say when they expect to complete the business and technical details of their deal.

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

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