Soft ICP: PC & Linux Hardware

The Future Has Always Been Linux.

NT Never Killed Off Unix

Despite predictions that NT’s rise would ensure Unix’s demise, last year showed that co-existence is the more likely near-term fate for both operating systems. “I do not foresee Unix going by the wayside. NT doesn’t have the robustness,” said Susan Whitney, general manager of worldwide systems sales, IBM, Armonk, N.Y.

Unix vendors, most notably Sun Microsystems Inc., responded to NT’s popularity with lower-cost servers that competed with Intel-based systems directly and with multiprocessing products whose performance was out of the range of NT’s growing market share.

“It’s a broad-based approach from being down in the low end all the way up to machines that the PC world can’t even conceive of yet,” said Anil Gadre, vice president of corporate marketing for Sun, Mountain View, Calif.

There were winners and losers on both the NT and Unix sides of the midrange server market, defined as servers with two to 30 processors.

Tandem Computers Inc., Cupertino, Calif., which in 1997 tied its fate more tightly to NT, made the most impressive leap in sales, growing 1,800 percent to $304 million, excluding its host-based systems.

Unix servers remain strong.

Not all vendors fared so well under the NT banner. Compaq Computer Corp., Houston, appreciated Tandem’s feat enough to buy the company in June, but saw its own midrange share fall 27 percent. Dayton, Ohio-based NCR Corp. focused on the high end of the NT market only to witness a 12 percent drop in sales last year.

Unix purist Sun achieved 12 percent sales growth for its loyalty to the operating system. But Sun could not keep up with Hewlett-Packard Co.’s 20 percent increase to $1.8 billion, which in turn was dwarfed by IBM’s results.

Not all went smoothly for IBM, however. Some resellers complained about the trickle of RS/6000s that flowed from the company’s newly combined manufacturing facility in Rochester, Minn.

The slip-up might have offered HP an opening, but the vendor was contending with its own problems. Sun began arguing to resellers that HP’s plan to combine NT and Unix sales forces showed divided loyalties.

Sun, meanwhile, deepened both its commitment to Unix and its criticism of NT. “You get this funny message, and you have to reboot the [NT] server, and it takes awhile to come back up. That is just an unbelievable annoyance,” Sun’s Gadre said.

Sun’s argument held some truth, in the view of some analysts. “One thing that was disappointing to us was that Wolfpack [NT clusters] was so delayed in being implemented,” said Jerry Sheridan, senior analyst for Dataquest Inc., San Jose.

Tandem and others appeared to take share away from Compaq. As the No. 1 maker of Intel-based servers, Compaq committed to NT, but delivering eight-way SMP turned out to be harder to implement than the company thought. Compaq “was on a slow path to the enterprise. By acquiring Tandem, they purchased capability,” Sheridan said.

Inventory and pricing problems also hobbled Compaq. But with its Tandem acquisition and pending Digital merger, Compaq could emerge as a midrange powerhouse. One thing is certain: The playing field will look a little different this time next year.

Categorised as: Unix

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