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Users ponder fate of Compaq's Tru64 Unix

Despite reassuring words from the heads of HP and Compaq, users express concern over the fate of Compaq products. For enterprise server users, the big question is: How long before Compaq's Tru64 Unix fades from oblivion?

There has been a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., but little has been said about the fate of specific product lines. Taken off guard by the announcement earlier this week, enterprise server users are waiting to see what will happen to Compaq's Tru64 Unix and other Compaq-supported operating systems.

At Tuesday's announcement of the acquisition, HP CEO and chairman Carly Fiorina declined to give specifics on how the server lines will be integrated. Overall, the companies hope to save $2.5 billion a year in overhead costs. "HP will be the surviving brand, Compaq will be a sub-brand we market smartly," Fiorina said.

"Yet users of both HP-UX and Tru64 admit HP will have to do something with the operating systems, probably merge them," said Michael Lakvold, an Allen, Texas-based e-business consultant. "A dichotomous view will hurt in the long run. Customers want to know the company's direction."

HP-UX user Marvin Blackburn sees the acquisition overall as positive to HP but he has some reservations. "I sure as hell don't want to go to Tru64. HP's base is larger than Tru 64's. I fully expect the Tru64 line to end," said Blackburn, a senior Unix systems administrator in Glen Raven, N.C.

Edward "Chip" Miller, who has used both HP and Compaq servers, is afraid the companies may say and do different things. "You will get lip service that support will be there and within 18 months you will see one of the systems mothballed due to economic pressures," said Miller, director of system services at Ecology and Environment, Inc., Lancester, N.Y.

In retrospect, perhaps there were some warning signs of the deal. Just over a month ago, Compaq announced it was backing away from Alpha chips in favor of Intel's new Itanium processors. Compaq will stop designing and building new Alpha processors by 2003. HP helped Intel develop the Itanium technology.

Compaq acquired Tru64 Unix as well as OpenVMS when it purchased Digital Equipment Corp. in 1998. Long-time OpenVMS users also question the merger.

"I am very concerned that HP will have greater investment in its proprietary systems over those of the new member of the team (Compaq)," said Gary Paul Hermus, computer systems coordinator, New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Hermus has a host of Alpha servers running Compaq OpenVMS.

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