DataFocus, Unisys Partner to Integrate Windows NT and Unix

The words "mission-critical" can be a sometimes-overused term in the computer industry. Of course, all of the applications network administrators and their dominions use can be considered mission-critical. But when the federal government tells a company such as Unisys Corp. (Blue Bell, Pa., that the government needs a program to integrate its Unix-based mission-critical applications into the Windows NT environment, the term takes on a more important meaning.

So Unisys is teaming with DataFocus Inc. (Fairfax, Va., to use DataFocus' NuTCracker, a program that allows evolving applications to incorporate the latest Windows technologies. Under terms of the agreement, DataFocus’ NuTCracker will be included in the Unisys Microsoft Center of Excellence. In turn, Unisys is also participating in DataFocus’ NuTCracker Solution Partner Program.

Pat Higbie, chairman and CEO of DataFocus, says that the federal government and Fortune 1,000 companies typically don't have enough people to integrate all of their company's applications, so they need outside partners to help. "There's a lot of integration that goes on, and we need partners that have a lot of Unix and Windows expertise that can add value to our product for their customers," says Higbie. "Unisys has several large federal government contracts, and they're in good position to bring together the full range of components to solve their needs." Higbie says NuTCracker allows Unisys to use its Unix experience and bring that expertise onto the NT platform.

The Unisys Microsoft Center of Excellence and NuTCracker will ensure that federal customers have access to enterprise-level Windows NT solutions that leverage their investments in Unix applications and expertise. Additionally, with Unisys' participation in the NuTCracker Solution Partner Program, both companies will be able to work in concert to assist federal customers with their Unix and Windows NT interoperability and compatibility requirements.

The Unisys Microsoft Center of Excellence is a laboratory and showcase for Unisys NT enterprise technology and a variety of other solutions. The facility has capabilities to support the development and display of technology solutions offered by Unisys and its partners, including the NuTCracker product line.

Currently within the federal government, there are thousands of mission-critical applications on Unix, but as the benefits of Windows NT are recognized, the need increases for compatibility.

Doug Lynn, program analyst with the Meta Group Inc. (Stamford, Conn.), says NuTCracker is a useful tool for Unix-NT integration, but not a complete solution. Even with NuTCracker, "where you don't have Unix commands in NT, you have to make up for the function or you'll have problems," says Lynn. "In Unix, you can assign objects to users and groups, but you can't do that in NT. NuTCracker at least attempts to make the 'change ownership' command from the Unix system into the NT system." Lynn also recommends that programmers beware that the more complicated the application is written, the more complicated it is to integrate it into NT with any program.

DataFocus' Higbie analogizes that NuTCracker is like Windows NT itself: "It is a great product, but you need solution providers to operate it."

In September, Unisys opened up its second Enterprise NT Center of Excellence at its Federal Systems facility in McLean, Va. The McLean center is designed to showcase Unisys/Microsoft enterprise solutions for the federal government marketplace, such as the first Microsoft enterprise solution in the federal government that Unisys implemented for the U.S. Coast Guard in 1995. All in all, Unisys is deploying more than 80,000 Windows NT workstations, 2,500 servers and 1,500 local-area networks in federal government agencies.