Caldera backs away from 64-bit Open Unix
With development of the company's Linux distribution more or less handed over to SuSE Linux AG and the UnitedLinux project, Caldera's research and development dollars are now focused on its Open Unix and OpenServer Unix flavors and the Volution management products, but while both Unix variants continue to be developed by the company, neither are likely to be available for 64-bit processors.
As the legacy Unix variant, OpenServer was never likely to be ported to Itanium, but sizable investment has gone in to projects to develop a 64-bit version of Open Unix, both with IBM on the Monterey project and through SCO's Gemini project that created UnixWare 7, the predecessor to the current Open Unix 8. Feedback from Intel and customers, however, has led Caldera to the conclusion that there is enough life in the 32-bit market.
"The feedback from Intel and our customers is that 64-bit addressing today just isn't a priority, and the 32-bit processors are just getting better and better," said Caldera's VP EMEA, Chris Flynn. "32-bit is good enough for most people's processing requirements." That appears to suggest that Open Unix and OpenServer's lifespan will last only as long as 32-bit processors continue to sell, but Flynn maintained that the operating systems will remain available as long as customers want them.
"There's plenty of mileage in 32-bit Unix," he said. "Until our customers tell us that they don't want Unix and they don't want 32-bit Intel any more, which I don't see happening, then nothing's going to change. 32-bit is just great for customers over the next few years, but we do have choices, and we could move forward with our 64-bit projects."
One of those choices will be 64-bit Linux, which is being developed through the IA-64 Linux Project, and will be available from Caldera. Flynn believes that by the time users are looking to purchase 64-bit servers and operating systems in volume, Linux will have gained the robustness and scalability it requires to compete with Unix in the enterprise market.
Another option Caldera has on the shelf is IBM's AIX 5L, which was developed from the Monterey project between IBM and SCO. In 2001, Caldera offered a preview of the AIX 5L operating system for Itanium to developers, and it remains a possibility that Caldera will offer IBM's Unix for 64-bit users should there be the demand.
In the meantime both Open Unix and OpenServer continue to be updated. Flynn maintains that the Open Unix businesses is growing strongly, fueled by migration from OpenServer, as well as price/performance concerns among users driving the take-up of Intel processors and also a general level of dissatisfaction with Microsoft licensing. Open Unix gets an update in the third quarter with version 8.0.1, which will include the usual scalability and manageability tweaks.
The majority of the kernel development work continues on Open Unix, with OpenServer getting feature updates for new hardware drivers. A new version of OpenServer, version 5.0.7, is due in the fourth quarter of 2002, while Caldera is also developing an OpenServer Kernel Personality for Open Unix. The OKP will enable users to run applications written for OpenServer on Open Unix unchanged, and is about to go into beta with a full release expected in the fourth quarter.
Although this provides a clear upgrade path for OpenServer users to move to Open Unix, Flynn maintained that there is life in the product. "We're very committed to OpenServer and will be for as long as people want to buy it," he said.