IBM is undertaking a major project with Intel, Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) and Sequent Computer Systems that includes developing a version of the Unix operating system for Intel's upcoming 64-bit processor architecture.
The initiative, dubbed "Project Monterey", will lead to three new versions of Unix, executives from the companies said this week.
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 add IBM's AIX operating system technology.
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. Called Merced, that architecture, whose release has been delayed, is expected out in mid-2000. The Project Monterey version of Unix for that processor will be ready when Merced comes out. The trio's ultimate goal is to give software vendors a single platform to port to for 32- and 64-bit Unix systems on Intel and IBM Power microprocessors, they said.
An SCO statement elaborating on its role in the project said the company will introduce a UnixWare Business edition line for small-to-medium servers, as well as a DataCenter edition for larger-scale use, in the first half of next year. An updated version of UnixWare 7 incorporating some AIX technology will be out in early 2000, and is intended in part to prepare SCO customers for the release of IA-64.
IBM has created a separate Unix group within its server division to deal specifically with the project, which also involves the investment of "tens of millions of dollars" to recruit ISVs (independent software vendors) to the cause and then to offer them support with marketing and other aspects of work related to the Unix project, executives said.
Asked whether IBM has approached Hewlett-Packard and other major hardware vendors that offer flavours of Unix, Bob Stephenson, senior vice president of IBM's server group said, "We welcome all comers".
He predicted that additional announcements regarding other corporate participants will be made in coming months.
Asked to confirm that IBM specifically approached Sun Microsystems to participate in the initiative, Stephenson replied, "We would invite anyone who has an interest in this to participate with us. Sun has shown no interest in this, but we're open."
The project is also open to the notion that Windows NT is going to increasingly be the operating system option chosen by some enterprise customers. It is "critically important" that Unix users accept that their operating system "must be friendly towards NT and certainly this effort provides for that," Sequent Chairman and CEO Casey Powell said.