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Tandem CEO Roel Pieper has had a change of heart. After attempting to rally the UNIX industry against NT in 1993, he has now bet Tandem's future on the Microsoft OS. It's a dramatic change of course for Tandem, a company that gained prominence by selling proprietary enterprise servers and fault-tolerant systems. Pieper recently spoke with NT Enterprise Edition editor Joe Panettieri to lay out Tandem's NT clustering strategy and explain his newfound fondness for NT.
WinMag: How is Tandem addressing the NT cluster market?
Pieper: We're essentially doing what Microsoft is doing, and will be compatible with Wolfpack. Our physical interconnect, which we call ServerNet [an 800Mb-per-second connection between clustered servers-ed.], has been broadly adopted by Compaq, Dell and others. They're all going to use ServerNet in cooperation with Wolfpack.
WinMag: If you're making ServerNet an open standard, why should a customer choose Tandem rather than buy ServerNet technology from, say, Compaq?
Pieper: There are other portions of our clustering technology called ServerWare that will differentiate our systems from the competition. ServerNet is a board; ServerWare is a software package. We provide complete NT systems with both. Also, we're experienced with clustering. Our Himalaya architecture [Tandem's proprietary servers] has long supported clustering. We believe we've got half of the clusters out there. We're either number-one or number-two, neck and neck with Digital.
WinMag: When will the NT cluster market really take off?
Pieper: NT clustering is a big business opportunity starting this summer. We're seeding customers with pilot and evaluation units now.
WinMag: Earlier in your career, you pitched UNIX for AT&T. Why are you now evangelizing NT?
Pieper: I was one of the drivers of COSE [Common Open Software Environment, an effort to create a single UNIX specification-ed.] and sold [AT&T's] UNIX System Labs to Novell in 1993. [Pieper left Novell in 1994 to run Tandem's UB Networks subsidiary-ed.]. Novell ultimately failed to combine UNIX with NetWare, and the infighting among UNIX vendors continued. The UNIX market as a whole is still growing, but it's getting less attractive to application developers. UNIX will remain a good solution for higher-end servers, but I don't think it can stand up against Windows or NT for general-purpose computing.