Robert Palmer warns Unix supporters: we’re all of us drinking at the Last Chance saloon In an upbeat keynote speech to UniForum delegates in San Francisco last week, Digital Equipment Corp boss Robert Palmer noted that Unix has proved indestructible despite the best efforts of the industry (with his own company a leading light) to […]
Robert Palmer warns Unix supporters: we’re all of us drinking at the Last Chance saloon
In an upbeat keynote speech to UniForum delegates in San Francisco last week, Digital Equipment Corp boss Robert Palmer noted that Unix has proved indestructible despite the best efforts of the industry (with his own company a leading light) to kill it, but warned that the new Open Software Foundation organisation will be vendors’ last chance to get it right: this had better work or Unix will die, he said. Up to now, DEC has been one of five firms each spending between $75m and $125m a year on engineering Unix – that’s over $500m in total that gets passed on to customers. This model, Palmer rightly observed, is economically unsound and means that vendors have effectively been developing the same things in their Unixes – five times over. Indeed vice-president Willie Shih, who came to DEC from IBM Corp last year and now runs a merged Windows NT and OSF/1 business unit, admits that DEC’s Unix strategy has been in shambles for the last five years. Although the Foundation’s OSF/1 effort will finally grind to a halt this summer, DEC, which alone has spent some $150m getting OSF/1 1.2 into shape for Alpha, says it hasn’t been dependent on the Foundation from an engineering standpoint since it took the full OSF/1 implementation from the Foundation back in March 1991. It will press ahead with development of the Mach-based system that it has tuned for scaled and fine-grained symmetric multiprocessing, and is currently seeking a new name for the operating system Advantage Unix has been heard as just one of the possibles that’s been doing the rounds. DEC is currently fashioning real-time and parallel-enabled versions of the microkernel, although whether it will pick up any of the reins the Software Foundation drops, such as the planned OSF/1.4 object environment, remains to be seen. DEC is currently bullish about the Alpha-OSF/1 sales it is making, saying that particular sectors will see their business double in the six months to the end of June compared with sales in the first half of its fiscal year. Details of what Shih describes as an agile strategy are not forthcoming, but overall, DEC’s Unix business now accounts for almost half of its revenues, with Windows NT riding somewhere just below 10%. It believes it has 80% of the leading Unix applications up on Alpha-OSF/1 now – 2,500 all told – and expects to have 90% by the end of June, compared with the 2,000-odd applications for Solaris 2.x.
The Alpha-based Lean true laptop helps DEC chief to get his UniForum message across
Digital Equipment Corp chief Robert Palmer ran part of his keynote presentation at UniForum from Lean, its prototype Low-End Alpha Notebook, which currently houses a 21066 Alpha AXP RISC that can be set by the user to clock at anywhere between 25MHz and 166MHz. The 6.9 lbs Lean that Palmer used was clocked at 140MHz – and was a real lap-warmer after only a few minutes use – and was running an OSF/1 2.0 kernel that DEC has adapted for portables, with power management features, but able, DEC insisted, to run any OSF/1 applications. DEC still hasn’t decided whether to turn the thing into a product – a Windows NT configuration is also seen – but a speech simulator running on the device was touting its own specifications as being 64Mb RAM and 500Mb disk. Designed from the ground up as a notebook computer rather than being simply a cut-down workstation, it supports all the features of a typical iAPX-86 notebook including VGA colour active matrix display, full-size keyboard, integrated trackball, two PCMCIA slots, standard input-output connections, high-capacity 2.5 disks, Peripheral Component Interconnect and large memory support. Battery life is said to be two hours, coming down to an hour when run in fast mode.
The best of former enemies: DEC puts SunSoft’s Common Desktop up under OSF/1
SunSoft Inc has been determined to get its feet under the Maynarder’s table in one form or another, and now that they’re part of the same fraternity, Digital Equipment Corp ap
parently feels that making some nodding gestures in the general direction of Mountain View must be OK. Last week it signed to put SunSoft’s Common Desktop Environment implementation up on its DEC Alpha AXP OSF/1 operating system, and was even showing the thing running on an Alpha box on Sun’s UniForum stand, after having worked on the implementation for three weeks. DEC promises the front-end by year-end, an Advanced Developers Kit in the autumn. The idea of it using Solaris in place of its OSF/1 on Alpha is a non-starter, despite Sun’s reported overtures. Meanwhile, Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG is also talking to Sun about licensing Common Desktop (over Hewlett-Packard’s implementation). The deal should be closed in the next couple of weeks, but won’t be announced until late May or early June. Again, products are scheduled for release at the end of the year, while the next Common Desktop snapshot is due in April. Sun plans to announce its own schedules at its development conference in May.