Data General turns to NeXT

by Simson L. Garfinkel

New York Data General Corporation will begin selling NeXTstations as low-cost client workstations for its RISC-based Avion servers, according to sources.

The package deal will offer Avion servers equipped with NeXT's NetInfo network-management system. NeXT's 68000 Objective-C compiler will also be ported to the Avion computer as a cross compiler, dramatically speeding the development environment for NeXTSTEP programmers using 3.0. NeXT's DBKit will be provided with special adapters for communicating with Oracle and Sybase database servers running on Avion servers.

The deal with NeXT could give corporate purchasers a reason to buy equipment from Data General by all accounts an old-time computer company with fading prospects.

But Data General would need to license NeXTSTEP for the Avion machines to reap the maximum benefit. Sources said, though, no licensing agreement is imminent.

"If this is part of a new vision [at Data General] that objects are the future, then I would encourage people to take another look at [the company]," said Adrian Bowles, director of advanced software development at New Science Associates, a research firm.

If NeXTSTEP is ported, it would mark the second time NeXT's operating system was licensed to another hardware manufacturer. In 1988, NeXT licensed NeXTSTEP 1.0 to IBM for use on the RS/6000 workstation. Although the deal bought NeXT credibility and much-needed cash, disagreements between the two companies and changes within IBM prevented IBM from bringing NeXTSTEP to market.

But the Avion port would be less complex than the port to IBM's RS/6000, a fact that delayed IBM's implementation so long it wasn't ready with NeXTSTEP until version 2.0 was released. NeXT has already done much of the work for a port to the Motorola 88000 architecture as part of its work on a future RISC workstation.