Unix Vendors Trade Barbs

As Windows and Linux carve into their OS turf, Sun and HP trade barbs over HP-UX, Solaris and Linux.

Large Unix vendors are spending as much time disparaging one another as they are dealing with the threat to their businesses from Windows and open-source Linux.

Leading the war of words is Sun Microsystems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., and its chief operating officer and president, Jonathan Schwartz, who has set his sights on IBM, which offers AIX, and Hewlett-Packard Co., with its HP-UX. The situation has been heating up since the summer, when IBM and HP announced new solutions to help customers and ISVs migrate from SPARC/Solaris to Linux.

IBM announced new resources to help ISVs and developers port Linux applications to the companys Power microprocessor architecture, which is the foundation for IBMs pSeries, iSeries and BladeCenter JS20 platforms. HP, meanwhile, has rolled out an expanded Solaris migration program that targets ISVs developing applications for Solaris and offers incentives to develop Linux applications for HP ProLiant and Integrity servers.

Those campaigns seem to be working. David Robert, a systems manager for a global consulting and engineering company in Cambridge, Mass., told eWEEK that more companies are now willing to move to server clusters instead of a single, high-end Unix box.

"This is a migration, or cannibalization if you will, of proprietary Unix in favor of Linux. We are moving from Sun and Tru64 to HP-UX and Linux clusters for all of our Oracle [Corp.] applications, which means we are really just trading one flavor of Unix for another," Robert said.

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Sun is now fighting back. Schwartz has warned users of IBMs and HPs dependence on and vulnerability to Red Hat Inc.s Linux and Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux. IBM and HP have no Linux distribution of their own, and Red Hat and Novell are adding products on top of Linux, he said, meaning that they will increasingly come in competition with HP and IBM.

Schwartz has also been predicting the demise of HP-UX, saying HP is clearly not supporting it on the required chip sets to make it a real player.

HP officials are countering with the argument that a top priority for 2005 is to hammer away at the theme of industry standards and the many choices HP offers, from Unix to Linux to Windows, with the goal of undoing much of the fear, uncertainty and doubt its competitors, including Sun, are spreading about it.

"What we are seeing is a workload migration to Linux, and the company that is losing that is, by and large, Sun," said Efrain Rovira, HPs worldwide director of Linux marketing, in Palo Alto, Calif. "The two unstoppable facts are that a lot of Suns customer base is moving to Linux—and there is no stopping that—and HP-UX is not going away and is our Unix for the long term."

As long as Red Hat remains platform-independent, HP will continue to work with Red Hat and also compete against Red Hat on any new technologies the company came out with on top of Linux.

HP does not want its own Linux distribution, which would create the impression that HP supports that over the others in the market, Rovira said. "Such a move would destroy the competitive value we have by not offering our own distribution," he said.

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