Compaq to Open Tru64 Unix?

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published: July 12 2000

Compaq to Open Tru64 Unix?
R. Krause - July 12, 2000

Event Summary

June, 2000 [Source: IT Week]

Compaq Computer Corp. is considering releasing source code for its Tru64 Unix operating system. Indications are that Compaq will not release the code in its entirety, at least not initially. It is expected that if such a release takes place, it will be in several steps or pieces, over a timeframe to be determined.

Compaq's Tru64 Unix is the operating system formerly known as Digital Unix, which was acquired when Compaq purchased Digital Equipment Corporation in 1998. Tru64 Unix presently runs on Compaq's Alpha products (including Alphaservers), and is planned to run on its NonStop Himalaya products (developed by Compaq's Tandem division). Although Himalaya servers currently are powered by processors from MIPS Technologies Inc., Compaq plans to move the product line to its own Alpha processors.

Competitors to Tru64 Unix include Sun's Solaris, IBM's AIX, and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX operating systems.

Market Impact

As with most of the "let's open the source" gambits recently, the theory behind this is: if the source is opened, more developers will write applications for (or port to) Tru64, which means more people will buy Tru64 Unix-based systems, etc.

We have mixed feelings on this. On the plus side, we believe Tru64 Unix (f/k/a Digital Unix) is a high-quality OS, even though its market share has generally been low (historically in the 5% range of the Unix market, although Compaq says volume doubled last year). If the "open source gambit" helps increase its market share, that is a good thing. The 64-bit-ness of Tru64 should also provide some advantage.

The "down side", so to speak, is the idea that if Compaq thinks the only way Tru64 can survive is to be "just like Linux", then they have bigger problems. (We realize that the Linux phenomenon changes the Unix rules of the game, so we do not see this as a big negative). In addition, the partial opening of the source reminds us of Sun's open-but-not-really licensing of Solaris code - except Sun is (currently) in a much stronger market position, so maybe they can afford to be more restrictive.

User Recommendations

Corporate users will not be immediately affected by this announcement - the benefits are more long-term: improved code, more applications, and so forth. Tru64 purchases already in the pipeline should continue as planned.

Potential Unix customers should include Tru64 Unix on their short list, even though Compaq is not often thought of as a Unix shop.

Developers and ISVs should be a little cautious with respect to taking on a big new Tru64 development project on the basis of partial source release. Although Tru64 is high quality, if the sales volumes are not there, it may be difficult to justify the expenditure (i.e., development, not source, expenditure).

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