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October 27, 1999

Unisys Steps Up to Enterprise NT Plate

By CBR Staff Writer

By William Fellows

Perhaps more by default than design Unisys Corp is leading NT’s charge to the enterprise with a 32-way server and confirmed status as the key development partner in Microsoft’s Windows 2000 Data Center release.

With other high-end NT projects including NT-on-Alpha canned, Unisys has stepped forward under a new development agreement announced yesterday to work with Microsoft to add Unix-like dynamic partitioning to the Data Center release of Windows 2000. In addition to IP Unisys says it will also be the driving force behind a set of open (at least non-Redmond) APIs which Data Center will include to support third party enterprise management products. Unisys says Windows 2000 Data Centre will ship by mid- July, within four months of the release of Windows 2000, which is now set for February 17. Unisys expects to see Windows 2000 Release Candidate 3 mid to late November. It has already bet its bottom dollar that NT and not Unix (not open), Linux (doesn’t scale) or Java (owned by one company) will be the e-business platform of choice.

Unisys has also been eager to get its CMP cellular multiprocessing architecture to market in the ES7000 server which was also announced yesterday. It has been talking about the 20Gbps six-port crossbar interconnect and chipset for more than two years but is still waiting for Windows 2000 Data Center and IA-64. So it decided a major publicity splash would be in order for the launch of a 32-way, 32-bit Pentium III Xeon version of box when any form of Windows 2000 made it to market. It took a berth at Comdex Fall expecting to have code, then Microsoft rolled the release back to February. Unisys is now saying ES7000 will run NT 4.x and Windows 2000 in advance of the Data Center release, but the server is really a second quarter 2000 product if the truth be told. It hasn’t even shipped a unit to beta customers yet. According to Merrill Lynch, Unisys had hoped to double the $60m-odd revenue it did on NT in 1998, but with IA-64 and Windows 2000 delays it’s going be at least the second half of next year before NT revenue can accelerate.

But that hasn’t stopped it talking about some impressive performance numbers. As a 32 by 32 way NT system Unisys is claiming that ES7000 will outperform Sun Microsystems Inc’s 64 by 64 E10000 Starfire on TPC-C transactions at 25% of the price. Sun’s currently at 115,395 tpmC. But by then Sun should be on to a new generation of servers. And just who will want that kind of NT horsepower isn’t clear given Unisys’ own experience that the majority of NT revenue is derived from line-of-business applications not enterprise installations. It supposedly has around 20 NT trials worldwide.

Although ES7000 will support SCO UnixWare, Unix is clearly an unwanted necessity as far as Unisys is concerned. UnixWare didn’t warrant much more than a line in all of yesterday’s support materials. ES7000 is also supposed to support Unisys’ OS2200 and MCP/A mainframe operating systems running on ASICs further down the road, but for now the existing ClearPath server line using the Scalable Coherent Memory bus will continue to carry that load. The next release of the ClearPath servers which support NT, Unix and the mainframe operating systems will supposedly incorporate CMP.

It’s rather late to the game but Unisys launched its e-business strategy yesterday, emphasizing its ability to bring brick and mortar companies to a click and mortar world. It is wrapping up 60 new and existing server, application solution, platform and plumbing products under the E-@ction brand and is touting new partnerships with BEA Systems for middleware, Intershop for web storefronts and Siebel Systems for CRM. It only created its e- business team back in January under Barbara Babcock, VP electronic business.

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The consensus is that Unisys has enough traction in scalable, high-availability systems that it should be able to make the strategy work and its recent history is all about integration through services. There is certainly a significant installed base of Unisys Sperry and Burroughs mainframe users it can target.

So much for products. CEO Larry Weinbach promises he will reorganize the company’s management and sales force by the end of November to execute on the strategy. He wants revenue from e- business to be 50% of the company’s revenue by the end of 2002 up from 18% today. Renaming a bunch of existing products under the E-@ction brand should help immediately.

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