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SCO, Groklaw and the Monterey mystery that never was

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Monterey fades

It was only as 2000 dawned that the bloom began to come off the Monterey rose. IBM had used the LinuxWorld show in January to announce that Linux was a company-wide priority for IBM. In March the New York Times' published a Steve Lohr piece "I.B.M. Goes Countercultural With Linux" describing how Big Blue had changed strategy. In October 1999, Sam Palmisano (now IBM chief executive) had assumed command of the server group. On December 22, Palmisano presented CEO Lou Gerstner with the new strategy, and appointed a Linux "czar", Irving Wladawsky-Berger, to ensure all IBM's divisions marched in step.

In late spring IBM announced a major upgrade to AIX without any Monterey branding, but with an 'L' indicating, the marketeers, claimed, an "affinity" with Linux. Monterey had become the forgotten project. By August 2000, the same month that Caldera agreed to buy the brand and several important assets from SCO, IBM executive David Turek was talking about Monterey in the past tense. "Monterey was a project to make AIX a fully 64bit operating system, and make it run on POWER and IA-64 ... and we have done that. It is out in beta, people are doing applications on it, some OEM partners are working on it - and that is the evolution of Project Monterey," he told The Register.

NewSCO now claims that IBM only told SCO that Monterey was being terminated "on or about May 2001", nine months later - a claim that IBM rejects.

Meanwhile, Intel's hopes of storming the RISC camp were encountering problems. 1999 had been a torrid year for Merced. Six months before the Monterey announcement, Intel said Merced would arrive a year later than planned. Its launch would be overshadowed by talk of the second generation IA-64 chip, McKinley. (See Secrets of Intel's IA-64 Roadmap Revealed [28 April 1999]; HP confirms Merced retreat [5 May 1999]; Merced just a development platform for McKinley [10 May 1999] )

As 2000 turned into 2001, it was clear that Itanium's debut, delayed a further year, would be very low key indeed. Long before the first generation processor Merced appeared, vendors confirmed Register stories from the previous year that its HP-designed successor McKinley would be the first serious IA-64 contender. (See The lateness of Intel's Mercedium [20 July 2000].

So Monterey's fate was no mystery.

Linux was winning broad industry endorsements and support, and was being adopted more quickly than the Monterey partners had expected, as Intel's 64-chip processor looked like less of a sure-fire RISC killer. Intel's investment in its 32-bit P6 core was also paying off. The processor had briefly given Intel bragging rights to be the fastest chip in the world, and in Xeon, Intel gave it SMP capabilities and a large cache. IA-32 sales rocketed.

The Monterey Mystery

Groklaw makes some odd claims, including the emphatic "discovery" that Monterey was intended to run on IBM's POWER RISC processor. But this was never a secret - it was one of the project's initial goals, and widely publicized.

"As we now know, the plan was to move to Linux at the earliest opportunity anyhow," writes the author. The point is repeated over several articles: Monterey was a "stop gap".

"We knew oldSCO knew, when Project Monterey was going on, that Linux was the future and Project Monterey the stopgap," claims Groklaw.

At one point, a Register article is produced as evidence. In it a SCO employee working on the LKP (Linux-on-Unixware).

"Was SCO fully aware how quickly Linux would develop, that it would replace Unix, or did it take them by surprise? I have found the answer to that question. In an article in August 2001, in the Register, Caldera -- what SCO then called itself -- predicted 'In two to five years Linux will surpass where Unix is now'"

But that's a prediction by an engineer, not a strategy statement.

The most damning evidence offered in the Monterey Mystery is an IBM marketing document which can be found here, at DataTrends Inc., an IBM consultancy.

In it, IBM claims:

"Linux, over time, will develop into the standard application development platform for the spectrum of applications that comprise our customers’ e-business solutions."

But there's a big difference between a development platform and a deployment platform. The document is designed to assure IBM's Monterey, Linux and AIX customers that its server strategy won't leave anyone stranded. It offers little more than that.

The timing of its publication is particularly important. It appeared on the day that Steve Lohr's New York Times article appeared detailing the Palmisano/Wladewsky-Berger strategy. IBM co-operated with the Times and anticipated that its emphasis on Linux might make AIX and prospective Monterey customers nervous.

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