Why Do You Think They Call It Net-Work?

Outside The Box

In a recent report released by Aberdeen Group that followed users of NT 3.51 and 4.0,it found that "difficulties with scalability, robustness and administrativecomplexity" have prevented large-scale enterprises from full enterpriseimplementation of NT. The report pointed to one company that had to maintain one serverfor every four users and added, "all implementations used several servers dedicatedto specific tasks such as e-mail and administration."

One solution to these problems is to consolidate NT's primary domain controllerfunctions on top of larger, enterprise-ready UNIX servers allowing authentication, fileand print and directory services on one box.


Sun Microsystems is taking the plunge into UNIX/NT interoperability with PC NetLink.John Shumaker, vice president and general manager for enterprise desktops says it will,"not only take market share from our traditional UNIX competitors but expand ourworkstation market," and bring in more than $30 billion in new business.

Originally announced as part of Sun's Project Cascade last September, PC NetLink makesuse of AT&T's Advanced Server for UNIX (AS/U) as its foundation. First conceived as anagreement between AT&T and Microsoft in March 1991, AS/U is not new technology. At onetime or other AS/U has been used or endorsed by UNIX vendors attempting to provide NT/UNIXserver consolidation.

"Our customers say they're not going to swap out NT," says Dave Douglas,director of technology and architecture in Sun's CTO organization. "Our task was tofind a way to implement a thin layer on top of Solaris." So, given the need toconnect to NT to provide a single login and Sun's less than amicable relationship withMicrosoft, Douglas says the only way to legally license it was to ink a deal withAT&T, which was already contracted with Microsoft through NT 4.0.

AS/U has a spotty track record. And there are skeptics. Count Roger Franklin, presidentof Syntax, Inc. (Federal Way, Wash.) as one. Syntax produces Total Access Server (TAS) 5.4that enables UNIX boxes to share files and resources across Windows 3.x/95/98/NT, DOS,OS/2, NetWare, Macintosh and UNIX computers by creating a common file system.

"[PC NetLink] will carve out a part of the UNIX file system and create an NT filesystem," says Franklin. "It will be very difficult to share files with [otherplatforms]. The information should be as independent of the technology as possible."Syntax has had a long and successful relationship with Sun and Sun ships TAS with new Sunservers, a combination that Douglas says is not going to change anytime soon.


AS/U also has a reputation for scaling poorly. "We've done a lot of work to makeit more multi-processor aware ... and tuning of the core for multi-threading," saysDouglas.

In comparing products like TAS and PC NetLink, Douglas says that TAS fits well in UNIXshops that have PCs, while PC NetLink is appropriate for companies with Solaris servers inan NT infrastructure that want to simplify administration.

HP's Advanced Server/9000 is an AS/U implementation. It's a product that, "we'restill actively marketing and selling," says Patricia McHugh, HP's product marketingmanager for middleware. "It lets administrators trained in NT manage under HP-UX justas they would under NT."

As to claims of AS/U's poor scalability, McHugh points to an array of 200 to 300 ofHP's top enterprise customers in automobile, telecom, aerospace and manufacturingindustries that all make use of Advanced Server/9000. "We're not just talking aboutone or two servers in these installations. And they continue to buy additional servers. Ifperformance were poor that wouldn't be happening."

She points out that HP, in lab testing, has achieved 80% to 90% of native Windows NTperformance, but adds, "It will never be native." In addition, after "threeyears of adding features only available in HP-UX," McHugh says that the latestrelease includes MC/ServiceGuard high-availability support, support for large files, SMBsigning (a feature that supports mutual authentication and message authentication) andbrowsing across subnets. And, a beta release with full 64-bit support for HP-UX 11 isscheduled for June.


As to what lays beyond NT 4.0, after which AT&T's access to NT technology ends,Sun's Douglas says not to worry. In NT 5.0/2000, Microsoft is implementing a more standardinterface and support for Kerberos for security. "Active Directory has a good LDAPinterface [and] we'll be able to solve a lot more of the interoperability problems withoutlicensing."

McHugh agrees with Sun's assessment. But only in the short term. HP has a roadmap forimprovements to Advanced Server/9000 beyond NT 5.0/2000. McHugh is wary of Microsoft'sintentions. Although NT 5.0/2000 will initially be more open to interoperabilitystandards, "Knowing Microsoft, over time they may make changes that make itincompatible." And that separation will force HP to develop another product to offerfile and print services. As to whether that product will be AS/U-based, McHugh was notforthcoming.

--Ken Deats, Associate Editor

Another Route To Server Consolidation

Talk with Jim Spoerl, president of Effnet, Inc. (Wellesley, Mass.) and you'll realize that the growing trend in network consolidation will evolve into more than just providing a single login. Effnet's mission is "to help network managers reduce the complexity in their networks while lowering costs and increasing options." He says they do this with a new, proprietary routing algorithm that allows the combination of multiple functions such as routing and security on a single box and soon on a single PCI card.

"There is a growing resistance in the industry relative to the multiplication of specific-service boxes," says Spoerl. "Rather than separate boxes, we want to consolidate all the functions together."

Formed in 1997, Effnet sprang from the efforts of research scientists performing in a lab near the Arctic Circle at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden. There, they discovered a way to dramatically improve the efficiency of router table lookups, which resulted in the foundation of the Effnet algorithm. Spoerl explains that most performance gains realized in overall router performance are directly attributable to faster hardware while the theory behind the table lookups has not changed in several decades.

Effnet's initial product offerings include the FTC 500FR integrated firewall and IP router, which is based on Effnet's filtering technology implemented on industry-standard hardware and the FTC 1000R IP router, which is capable of forwarding 1,000,000 IP packets per second. But, to hear Spoerl talk, it's Effnet's upcoming Aurora product that, he thinks, will shed new light on methods of network consolidation.

Just demonstrated at CeBIT '99 in Hanover Germany, the Aurora is the first of Effent's new Northern Lights series of multifunction gigabit router and security solutions for NT and UNIX servers. Spoerl explains that, traditionally, the features offered by the Northern Lights series have required three or more dedicated boxes. But the Aurora will assemble all the firewall and routing features on a single PCI card, with almost one gigabit performance.

Spoerl says to look for the Aurora to be available in the "next few months," and, while he could not give a specific price, it will probably be offered in a configuration that provides four ports per box, at "about $1,000 per port." He added that future releases of the Northern Lights series will include firewall filtering, secure VPNs, QoS and client-server applications on a single multifunction network card.