Enterprise Unix Roundup: Convenient Convergence
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Convergence is an interesting concept. It's a natural part of the business cycle and enables products and services to evolve. The messaging space, for example, is converging as instant messaging and mail become critical components of communication. One could argue that convergence is central to the open source movement as it's easy for developers to borrow from one app to build another, a somewhat natural ebb and flow, as the players in the space expand and contract.
Convergence also makes for a nice marketing term, providing no one looks too closely or questions what you're doing. We've found the four syllable word to sound great in a glossy marketing brochure but have little meaning in the corporate jungle.
On Wednesday, as HP was preparing for what has been universally described as a love-fest with Intel and Oracle, Sun CEO Scott McNealy posted an open e-mail to HP CEO Mark Hurd with the subject line, "Let's converge HP-UX with Solaris 10."
The letter proposes that Sun and HP work together to "converge" HP-UX with Solaris 10, noting the following:
... we'd like to offer HP, and the HP user community, a third option: to converge Solaris 10 with HP-UX, running on HP's very own ProLiant product line. We've spoken to HP about it, thought we saw a glimmer of interest, and now we want to get their customers and partners involved.
How kind of Sun. When it says "convergence" does it mean integration with eventual migration, or does this mean its "HP Away" program has been shelved for a kinder, gentler merger of operating systems?
To further grow the non-existent zeitgeist, President and COO Jonathan Schwartz discussed the letter in his blog.
The timing on this invitation couldn't be more transparent. We see it. The majority of the tech press sees it. We feel safe saying the mainstream press and customer base likely sees it, too. In fact, one comment on Schwartz' blog went so far as to express doubt. It's not the first time Sun (or any of the OEMs for that matter) has tried to deflect attention away from the vendor in the spotlight.
We first got wind of Sun's interest in HP-UX at the last month's Open Source Business Conference. Schwartz, in his keynote, said there were more downloads of OpenSolaris in the first couple of months than there ever were of HP-UX licenses. He then indicated it would be nice if HP-UX and Solaris were to merge their development road maps.
Thursday's HP-Intel-Oracle press conference focused primarily on Integrity and Itanium, HP-UX territory. Currently, HP-UX is limited to HP's Itanium-based Integrity line, which will soon include servers in the soon-to-be-end-of-lifed AlphaServer and NonStop lines, and the HP 9000 line.
What's in it for Sun is obvious lots of potential customers, whether they seek to pay for Solaris support, or fall head over heels for Solaris such that they opt for Sun hardware the next time around. Not to mention insight and understanding into what makes HP-UX tick and proximity to the customer base.
HP is investing $1 billion a year for the next five years in Integrity, Hurd told the Webcast audience. With this much going into Itanium, Sun must see ProLiant as ripe for picking. It does, after all, have a large customer base.
What Sun's olive branch offers HP is a little less clear. The ProLiant line is currently the top seller in the x86 space. Any of these customers can download Solaris, any time. Perhaps a good many already have. Whether these customers are clamoring for or would benefit from HP-UX is unclear.
HP and Intel have been quite clear that Itanium isn't appropriate for all organizations. HP-UX may not be either.
Is this convergence appropriate (or even necessary) for an operating system designed for high-end, mission-critical systems? Is there any clear advantage to that, when ample options are already out there for commodity and midrange systems?
We're doubtful of Sun's veracity. If the OEM were truly interested in merging operating systems it would be making deals in the boardroom, not issuing open letters over the Internet, and it certainly wouldn't be doing so in a way that plays out as a back-handed compliment.