Linking Unix-based computers to IBM mainframes has long been a costly and complex headache for system managers. But because midsize computers using the Unix operating system are being used to run networks of PCs and workstations, a connection to the mainframe--and its data--makes sense. So, Unisys Corp. has come up with a hardware-software package that smoothes the connection of Unix machines to IBM's proprietary Systems Network Architecture (SNA) setups. The system, called Communications Access Processor (CAP), makes Unix look like just another mainframe to SNA machines, giving them full access to information stored on the real mainframe.

The product could help Unisys make inroads against IBM. Due for shipment in September, the CAP package at first will work only on Unix systems made by Unisys. That gives the company an opening to sell Unix systems to current customers that also use IBM SNA. Eventually, Unisys will adapt it for Unix systems made by rivals. Gradually, some Unisys officials argue, this could boost overall sales of Unix systems to IBM customers. CAPs will cost between $70,000 and $95,000. A competing system by IBM is still under development.

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