Six flavors run the gamut: The good, the bad, and the ugly

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Compaq Tru64 Unix

Condition: Fair

Current release: Tru64 Unix 5.1

Platform: Compaq Alpha workstations and servers

Standard: Unix 95

Application score: 4 out of 10

Advantages: Tru64 uses the powerful, lightweight Carnegie-Mellon Mach kernel; the 64-bit Alpha CPU is the best available for small and midsize servers; this continues Digital Equipment's legacy of creating powerful, affordable server systems.

Disadvantages: Compaq lacks experience and credibility outside Intel server market; Linux is very popular among Alpha users; and holes in System V compatibility make application porting difficult.

Prognosis: Of the many gems acquired in Compaq's purchase of Digital Equipment, few shine as brightly as the Alpha CPU. Alpha routinely tops SPEC (Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation) benchmarks as the fastest CPU at a given clock speed.

Compaq changed Digital Unix's name to Tru64 Unix to highlight the Alpha chip's 64-bit pedigree. Now Compaq has to earn the trust of the large-scale server market.

Unfortunately, Compaq's PC credentials do it more harm than good. Likewise, Linux and the mature OpenVMS may win more enterprise accounts than the fairly proprietary Tru64. Intel will undoubtedly pressure Compaq to prefer IA-64 chips over Alpha.

Tru64 UUnix on Alpha leads the pack in raw performance, but we suggest you wait to see what Compaq does with Alpha after IA-64 debuts.

Hewlett-Packard HP-UX

Condition: Good

Current release: HP-UX 11i

Platform: HP 9000 servers

Standard: Unix 95

Application score: 9 out of 10

Advantages: HP has a solid reputation for reliability and service; HP-UX comes with a substantial OS bundle including a Web server, C/C++, Windows networking, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) services, Linux APIs, iPlanet directory server, and Veritas file system.

Disadvantages: HP PA-RISC architecture is falling behind in performance relative to the competition.

Prognosis: Hewlett-Packard is the Volvo of IT: It quietly churns out ugly, bulletproof boxes that virtually care for themselves. HP is rarely first or fastest, but it packs enormous value into its Unix products.

Not surprisingly, HP-UX is almost Linux-like in its completeness, with time-proven enterprise tools and services included in the bundle.

HP's inclusion of the Veritas journaling file system moves HP-UX 11i to the front of the pack.

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