USL (AT&T) UNIX SVR4.2 Vs. SCO UNIX SVR3.2.4 FACTS Vs. MEDIA HOOPLA

Originally Published in 1992 (Computer Jagat Magazine)

In December 1989 when AT&T announced the first UNIX SVR4, it was touted as the ultimate UNIX operating system, merging the main variants of UNIX such as SVR 3.2, BSD and XENIX And now with the announcement of the SVR4.2 from Unix Systems Laboratories (USL), a subsidiary of AT&T, many SCO UNIX users are asking whether they are falling behind. Well, you need not fear., USL’s SVR4.2 (similarly their previous SVR4) is not really an operating system at all. It is a source-code distribution and reference implementation of OS technology for 386 and 486-based systems which will have to be customized and modified by vendors (computer manufacturers and independent software vendors) before it can be shipped to end-users. So the first versions of SVR4.2 may not hit the market before next year. Besides AT&Ts alliance with Sun Microsystems and adoption of SSL’s Open Look graphical user interface (GUI) for the SVR4 (and SVR4.2) diminished Use’s image as the operating system platform for totally open systems.

Since December 1989, when SVR4 was announced, SCO has added many BSD extensions to its version of SVR3.2 making its operating system functionally equivalent to SVR4. The enhanced SCO Unix SVR3.2 named SVR3.24 has been available for some time now and has also been incorporated into version 2.0 of SCO’s graphical network Unix system called Sco open Desktop (ODT).

The single biggest factor contributing to SCO’s huge Unix following is SCO’s monastic commitment to open systems and complete backward compatibility from its latest multi-processing Unix O/S to the oldest 286 Xenix. USL’s SVR4 did not even have multi-processing capability and although multiprocessing has been included in SVR4.2, it is not binary-compatible with its own single-processor version.

USL’s SVR4.2 complies with Intel Binary Computing Specification 2 (iBCS2) but configuration difficulties of the new release due to ‘certain weeding out’ of the base operating system make SVR4.2 operationally incompatible to many Unix applications.

SVR4.2 does however offer some new features like revised file system, graphical administration and runtime loadable kernel. SCO, the Unix systems leader, is expected to add a number of new features to its next release of ODT which should hit the market at about the same time as the first SVR4.2 versions. The new features will include support for Windows 3.1 applciations under DOS-Merge, Novell IPX/SPX support and new Graphical   administration   tools. CO will also make scalable fonts server available by the end of this year.

In the twilight there is a ray of hope that under cross-licensing agreements between SCO and USL the fate of any future Unix debate may be sealed for ever. Let’s keep our fingers crossed till then.

H.N. Karim

(Condensed from “Should You Be Concerned About SVR4.2 ?” published in the September 1992 Issue of the “SCO Magazine”.)

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