Compaq Merced Move Draws Mixed Response

Compaq Computer Corp.'s decision to drop Tru64-Unix development on Intel Corp.s forthcoming IA-64 chip architecture evoked a mixed reaction from users today.

Some said the move would simplify Compaq's enterprise offerings and strengthen its focus on Alpha servers at the high end.

Other users, though, called the decision a reversal of Compaq's earlier promises and said it underscores Compaq's difficulty in spelling out a long-term strategy for its acquired technologies. Just last month Compaq said it won't develop Windows NT for Alpha -- after earlier statements of support.

Compaq Senior Vice President Tim Yeaton said Compaq will discontinue all Tru64 product development on IA-64 and focus instead on the Alpha platform.

"This is designed to clarify and strengthen our focus'' on delivering separate lines of high-performance servers and those based on commodity Intel technology, Yeaton said.

At the high end, Compaq will have Alpha-based servers running Tandem's NonStop Kernel operating system, Tru64 Unix and OpenVMS, with Linux-based servers filling out the low end. On the Intel side, Compaq will offer Windows NT, NetWare, Linux and SCO Inc.'s upcoming Monterey Unix -- a merged Unix effort involving IBM, Sequent Computer Systems Inc. and SCO.

"At a strategic level this does not change our focus at all ... we remain totally committed to Unix and Alpha,'' Yeaton said.

"It makes sense from my perspective as a Tru64 Unix user on Alpha,'' said Joseph Pollizzi, deputy head of the science and engineering systems division at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. With SCO already holding a dominant position in the 32-bit Unix-on-Intel market, it's logical for Compaq to also offer SCO Unix as the 64-bit Unix of choice on its Intel servers, Pollizzi said. "Compaq has made its choice. That makes it easier for me to understand'' its Unix enterprise strategy, Pollizzi said.

The move also puts to rest any speculation about where Compaq will spend its future 64-bit Unix development dollars, said Jeff Killeen, president of Information Design & Management Inc. in Hopedale, Mass.

Compaq's effort to port Tru-64 Unix -- originally called Digital Unix -- to IA-64 was creating some doubt about the level of its commitment to Alpha. "With this, we now know there is no fallback position for Alpha.... Customers should see this as a positive sign,'' Killeen said.

But coming as it does on the heels of Compaq's decision to drop Windows NT on Alpha, the announcement raises some questions, said Tony Ioele, president of the Digital Equipment Computer Users Society.

"The whole pitch they have been giving so far is that you could use an IA-64 server for your [low-end] Unix applications and move right up through the Alpha line for unprecedented scalability,'' Ioele said. "With this, they are breaking that value chain. I am not quite sure what they are trying to achieve with this.... It is disappointing,'' he added.

"I am not sure if they are cleaning house or whatever, but sometimes it is a little difficult figuring out which way they are going,'' agreed Robert Young, a database consultant with ALI Database Consulting in Aiken, S.C. "Their past emphasis has been with smaller Intel-based systems. It seems like they still haven't quite meshed that with their high end."

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