[cap-talk] Capability past and future. CORBA (YURLs?), embedded OS

Jonathan S. Shapiro shap at eros-os.com
Tue Jun 12 15:09:41 EDT 2007

On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 11:37 -0700, Jed Donnelley wrote:
> Jonathan S. Shapiro wrote: 
> > But that was the right thing to do 15 years ago. Today, Linux has the
> > benefit of overwhelming engineering investment performed over those 15
> > years. It is no longer possible to deliver something "good enough" and
> > iterate.
> >   
> I believe the dominance of Unix started during the 1970s when AT&T
> started giving it away to educational institutions.  We were already
> using it at LLNL in 1975....

That view is plausible, but it ignores the fragmentation of UNIX in the
late 80's, and the fumbling and competing efforts to converge it
(remember how OpenGroup was formed to combat X/Open?). In 1990,
*businesses* still were not willing to adopt UNIX for back-office
business operations, and this was the customer base that ultimately
drove large UNIX revenue. UNIX in 1990 was perceived as too unreliable
for business server use.

As to whether reliability was a saleable proposition, HAL Computer
Systems raised our $240M first round on the strength of two

  1. A 64-bit SPARC-compatible processor attached to an S/370 class
     system architecture.
  2. Moving UNIX from "three nines" to "nine nines" reliability.

In the eyes of the investor, who was the number 2 computing company in
the world at the time, (2) was at least as important as (1).

Absent the dramatic improvement in UNIX and overall system reliability
between 1990 and 2000, the S/390 would be king of the mountain today.


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