Microsoft Ratchets Up NT-UNIX Interoperability

NEW ORLEANS -- During an opening keynote presented here last week at Microsoft Corp.'s annual Tech-Ed educational conference, Microsoft executive vice president of sales and support Steve Ballmer announced yet another round of NT-UNIX interoperability initiatives. The latest push includes deals that promise to deliver two-way transaction initiation between Microsoft Transaction Server environments and UNIX transactional systems.

NEW ORLEANS -- During an opening keynote presented here last week at Microsoft Corp.'s annual Tech-Ed educational conference, Microsoft executive vice president of sales and support Steve Ballmer announced yet another round of NT-UNIX interoperability initiatives. The latest push includes deals that promise to deliver two-way transaction initiation between Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) environments and UNIX transactional systems.

Of three individual NT-UNIX integration announcements, the single most influential move is an integration deal with Iona Technologies PLC (Cambridge, Mass., www.iona.com), which calls for Iona to integrate MTS technology into Iona's OrbixOTM. Iona, which licensed COM technology from Microsoft back in January, will enable its OrbixOTM middleware suite to initiate transactions in a Windows NT MTS environment, and conversely, will enable an NT MTS environment to initiate a transaction aboard a UNIX system running the OrbixOTM environment.

"One of the key things we hear from you that you need, is the need for strong interoperability," Ballmer told the keynote audience. "The world is a world in which there are lot of other kinds of systems around, and we need to provide excellent tools to allow you to interoperate with the other platforms you have."

The second of three key announcements was that Visual Edge Software Ltd. (Cupertino, Calif., www.visualedge.com) licensed COM for UNIX, and plans to offer bidirectional COM interoperability between NT and UNIX with its ObjectBridge product. ObjectBridge provides transactional, security and other services for COM, CORBA, DCOM and SNMP environments. The third announcement was that Digital Equipment Corp. plans to extend interoperability between Windows NT MTS environments with its OpenVMS ACMS environment using Digital's Transaction Internet Protocol (TIP). Digital projects a Q4 developer's release.

Separately, Ballmer revealed an assortment of details relating to upcoming developments, including plans to deliver a client-side version of SQL Server that will be tightly integrated into the next release of Office, currently code-named Office 9. The client-side version of SQL Server is expected to provide mobile workers strong resynchronization capabilities with a server running SQL Server 7.

Meanwhile, indications are that the server side version of SQL Server 7 still is not ready to go out the door. Ballmer said that Microsoft won't ship the much-delayed product until the largest ISVs in the industry say the product is good enough for them to sell it to their largest customers. He gave no indication of what time frame such designation may occur.

Web-to-Office integration remains a priority for Microsoft, with plans in place to provide the capability of saving Office documents -- particularly Word and Excel files -- in HTML or XML format. Office 9 will then be capable of reconverting XML documents back into their original, native format. Office 9 will be, said Ballmer, "in limited beta test in the next several months, with full production available by the beginning of next year."