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November 1999 Volume 6 no.11

SCO Forum 1999
CJ Online speaks with Jiro Monden, director of Nihon SCO.

by George Pajari

The Santa Cruz Operation Ltd. (SCO), the leading shipper of UNIX on Intel, recently held its thirteenth annual conference amongst the redwoods of the University of California's Santa Cruz campus. After several years of uneven financial performance, this year's event came on the heels of record quarterly financials. Even though the mood was upbeat, the event appeared to have fewer attendees and exhibitors than in previous years and SCO's refusal to provide attendance figures only reinforced this impression.

The hot topic at SCO Forum 1999 was Project Monterey, the project to develop the 64-bit version of SCO UnixWare for Intel's new Merced processor. A collaboration of Compaq, IBM, SCO, and now Samsung, Project Monterey is on track to ship with the first chips from Intel.

Linux: converting Microsoftees
Another topic of interest was the competitive positioning of SCO UnixWare against Linux. In a number of talks devoted to this topic, SCO made it clear that Linux is a good thing for the UNIX community in general and for SCO in particular. SCO's view is that Linux delivers desktop and low-end server capabilities that compete more against MS Windows than UnixWare. As such, many of the customers experimenting with Linux would be using Microsoft products if Linux were not available. And so Linux serves as a low-cost introduction to the world of non-Microsoft operating systems. And when companies find that the world does not come to an end when the server is not running NT, they become more open to other alternatives such as UnixWare. Also, companies who like the stability and robustness of a non-Microsoft operating system but wish to move up to a product that can scale to larger MP or clustered systems will naturally move to UnixWare from Linux, in SCO's perspective.

So in the final analysis, SCO encourages companies to look at Linux, going so far as to announce at the SCO Forum that their consulting division is now offering professional services to companies needing assistance with the implementation and deployment of Linux-based solutions.

Although the emphasis at SCO Forum was on SCO UnixWare as a robust server solution that can scale to mainframe-scale systems, SCO made it clear that they also have solutions at the other end of the spectrum. Compaq's NeoServer was proudly shown off, a small-office, home-office (SOHO), Internet/intranet appliance based on SCO's new Appliance Server offering, a scaled-down version of UNIX designed for zero-administration appliances. While at SCO Forum 1999 Computing Japan took the opportunity to interview Jiro Monden, Director of Nihon SCO.

SCO in Japan
SCO has two operations in Japan, Nihon SCO, which concentrates on the operating system business, and SCO K.K., a joint-venture which takes care of the Vision product line that integrates Windows networks with UNIX systems.

Moden-san proudly related that NSCO has enjoyed consistent 20% annual growth over the past two years in the face of significant competition from alternative operating systems. In facing the NT menace, Monden-san indicated the importance of NSCO to differentiate the UnixWare offering from the competition. This, he said, can be done in three main areas. First, the reliability of UnixWare makes it far preferable to NT for mission critical operations. This, combined with the High Availability clustering option from SCO, makes it possible to achieve up-times unavailable using other technology. Indeed, NSCO has probably sold more HA clusters than any other SCO office.

Why go SCO
The second area of differentiation is performance. Benchmarks performed on a COMPAQ Proliant four-processor system showed UnixWare to be about five times faster than NT on the same large database.

And in Moden-san's eyes the clincher is his organisation's ability to provide technical support. He felt one of the primary reasons OEMs enjoy working with NSCO is the quality of the technical support they receive. Since his organisation was part of the original AT&T Unix Software Labs and worked on the first port of UNIX to the Japanese language, his engineers have a familiarity and experience with their product.

Although SCO is confident that it has a compelling story to tell to those considering Linux, not everyone is listening. Mark Orr, co-founder and VP of Cobalt Networks, feels that Linux has many benefits over traditional operating systems. "The open source model of Linux brings a raft of benefits that no other operating system delivers. The speed of innovation, the responsiveness of the community to development issues, and the breadth of support are simply unparalleled," says Mark. Cobalt is the vendor of the Cobalt Qube and Raq Internet and Web appliances based on Linux. "By basing our products on an open source solution, our customers can easily adapt and modify our products to suit their needs in ways that would be impossible or prohibitive using other platforms."

As for SCO's dependence on the high-end enterprise market to protect UnixWare revenues, Mark warns that "SAP, Oracle, Lotus, and others have ported enterprise-class applications to Linux which has to tell you something about the demand for large-scale Linux systems. It's not the cost but rather the reliability combined with the benefits of an open source operating system that are driving this market."

Project Monterey: Where are the Japanese?
CJ Online asked Moden-san about the lack of participation in Project Monterey by Japanese companies. He said that it was still early in the project and that Japanese firms would be part of UnixWare 64 at the appropriate time. When pressed about the rumour that Hitachi was likely to be the first company in Japan to announce, Moden-san declined to comment. Asked if there were any other companies he would have "no comment" about, he said no.

In summary, attendees left this year's SCO Forum more positive than in recent memory. The threat from Microsoft has abated somewhat as companies are becoming disenchanted with NT's frequent crashes. And the Linux explosion is not only training a new generation of UNIX users, it is also proving to millions, in a way UNIX never seemed able to do, that at the lower end of the server market an alternative to NT not only exists but works, and works, and works.

http://www.sco.com/forum2000/

George Pajari is director of engineering at Faximum Software Inc. (http://www.faximum.com/fms).
Contact him at George.Pajari@Faximum.com.

 

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