Microsoft, Big Blue Bring Unix and NT Closer

Realizing the importance of platform interoperability in heterogeneous environments, Microsoft Corp., AT&T Corp. (Murray Hill, N.J., and IBM Corp.’s Transarc subsidiary have all made moves to aid users in enabling Windows NT and Unix to interoperate better. Earlier this year Microsoft announced the Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack, a package designed to ease the integration of Windows NT into Unix environments. Additionally, Microsoft is in court battling with AT&T over the Advanced Server for Unix software, a product the two companies teamed to create.

As part of Advanced Server for Unix project, AT&T takes the source code for Windows NT Server and ports NT services to Unix. "Microsoft refuses to give AT&T source code for NT 5.0," says Neil MacDonald, research director, the Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.). "So the future of Advanced Server for Unix is unclear, and it will take a lawsuit to settle it."

While Microsoft and AT&T wrangle over the future of Advanced Server for Unix, and the Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack is still completing its beta program, IBM Corp.’s Transarc Corp. (Pittsburgh, Penn., subsidiary unveiled four new Enterprise File Systems products that enable users to access, manage and host files from multiple platforms in networks and Web-enabled environments.

The four products are AFS Server for Windows NT, AFS Control Center, AFS Client Software and a product code-named AFS Web Secure. Based on Transarc’s Andrew File System (AFS), all four products are designed, much like Microsoft’s add-on pack, to simplify the integration of Windows NT servers and clients into Unix or heterogeneous environments. "For larger organizations, NT is being used, but it’s not really replacing Unix, so the two have to coexist," says MacDonald.

IBM/Transarc’s Enterprise File Systems, which include AFS, allow companies to find and manage files, such as Web pages, engineering designs and word processing documents.

AFS Server for Windows NT supports Windows NT 4.0 and provides users with file service and administration functionality, including replications and backup, across multiple platforms. Within AFS Server is the AFS Control Center, a graphical interface supporting Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Explorer for browsing and modifying files.

"With AFS for NT, users can drag and drop between NT Server and Solaris or [other] Unix seamlessly. Because we explicate info across multiple servers, which server is being accessed is always transparent to the end user," says Gail Koerner, product marketing manager, Transarc.

AFS Web Secure is a Web server extension that enables system administrators to integrate AFS security with Web servers. Such integration enables corporations to give enterprisewide file systems access to remote users without installing software. "From the systems administrator’s standpoint, this means I can copy and move files across the network, all online, without disrupting the end user," says Koerner.

According to the Gartner Group’s MacDonald, Microsoft’s and the Microsoft-AT&T offerings don’t match Transarc’s suite. "Advanced Server for Unix is a lower-tier option that AFS," he says. "Microsoft also has DFS, but it only runs on NT, not on Unix. AFS, on the other hand, is a true distributed file system."