Australian resellers are questioning the future of the RS6000 platform following IBM's decision last week to develop its Unix operating system to run on Intel's upcoming 64-bit processor, code named Merced.
As part of an initiative, dubbed "Project Monterey", IBM, in conjunction with Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) and Sequent Computer Systems, plans to release three new versions of Unix.
One version - a flavour of SCO's UnixWare 7 for 32-bit processors from IBM and Intel - incorporates IBM middleware and is available now. Future releases of this version will integrate some of the technology of IBM's proprietary Unix operating system, AIX.
In addition, IBM will take current UnixWare technology and incorporate it into future versions of AIX to create a second flavour of the Project Monterey platform.
The third offering will be for Intel's IA-64 processor, Merced, whose release has been delayed until mid-2000. The Project Monterey version of Unix for that processor will be ready when Merced comes out.
The ultimate goal is to give software vendors a single platform to port to for 32- and 64-bit Unix systems on Intel and IBM's RISC-based PowerPC microprocessors, officials from the three companies said.
But IBM's Australian resellers are less enthusiastic about the initiative.
"One of the strengths of the RS6000 is the features of the AIX operating system," Peter Kazacos, managing director of Kaz Computer Services, told ARN.
"If they incorporate all of those features in the UNIX flavour that runs on Merced, it will remove a lot of the advantages of the RS6000.
"Intel is a very popular hardware processing platform and people will tend to think that if they have Intel on the desktop, why shouldn't they have it at the server end as well. That will hurt the RS6000 platform [which runs on a RISC-based chip]."
Kazacos believes IBM's involvement in Project Monterey reflects its desire to curb Microsoft's influence in the software market. "I know that IBM is aggressively going after more software business and, as Microsoft obviously has a very large share of that market, this is another way for IBM to secure more software revenue," he said.
"If you look at the IBM camp, the arch-nemesis is NT and by providing a strong Unix flavour for Intel-based systems they are offering a competitive position to NT in the market."
Local IBM executives acknowledge they want to nab a sizeable share of the Intel-based server market, which is currently dominated by systems running NT.
"What's driving this initiative is a very large market opportunity across both [RISC-based and Intel-based] platforms that IDC predicts will total $28 billion by 2000," said Andrew Baker, general manager, systems, for IBM Australia and New Zealand.