Softway Lands Branding for Interix

What’s in a name? Apparently a lot. Following the June name change from OpenNT to Interix, Softway Systems Inc. (San Francisco, www.interix.com) was awarded Unix branding for its product – which brings a Unix operating environment to Windows NT -- by Open Group (Cambridge, Mass., www.opengroup.org), a standards consortium that oversees the Unix brand name usage.

The push, says Softway CEO Douglas Miller, is to highlight the company’s increased focus on interoperability between Windows NT and Unix operating systems.

Softway sees official Open Group branding as important because customers at the enterprise level require additional assurances that a solution such as Interix is architecturally sound, provides a total Unix environment and offers a full API set similar to that provided by all major flavors of Unix. Accordingly, Interix features a standard, certified Unix architecture, Unix shells, a full suite of Unix commands, as well as support for OpenGL, Motif and X11, a multiuser login model for terminal applications, and provisions for remote access and remote system administration.

In addition to running as a Unix operating system under Windows NT’s existing POSIX subsystem, Interix now provides support for traditional Unix features, such as shell accounts and multiuser functionality. Windows NT administrators can even attach character-based terminals to NT servers for multiuser implementations with Interix-on-Windows NT.

"Now that we fully support character terminals and serial ports and of course NT, it’s a pretty compelling operating system combination and maybe more attractive than a single-purpose machine running Unix," Miller says.

Dan Kusnetzky, director of worldwide operating environments research at International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.), suggests that Interix’s ability to support the character-based terminal and decision support Unix applications that function as the software underpinnings of many enterprise IT organizations could be the software’s strongest new selling point.

"Many of the applications that run medium to large organizations are batch and/or character cell terminal-oriented applications," Kusnetzky explains. "Windows NT does not have the facilities to handle either workload without assistance from some third-party product."

Although Miller suggests that the Interix-on-NT combination could serve as a replacement for traditional Unix operating systems in a variety of implementations and function as a viable solution for companies seeking to roll out both Windows NT and Unix in tandem, Interix will probably continue to be deployed as a Unix-to-Windows NT interoperability tool, as well. According to David Pensak, a principal consultant and senior research fellow in advanced computing technology at DuPont Corp. (Wilmington, Del.), many traditional Unix programmers are simply uncomfortable with the Microsoft Win32 API. For many such programmers, the POSIX look, feel and full-scale Unix functionality provided by Interix is a welcome environment that may help ease the transition to Windows NT.

"I don't think any good programmer from a Unix environment is going to be comfortable working in any Microsoft-based API," Pensak concludes. "That's not to say that there's anything wrong with Microsoft's API; it's just that they're significantly different."

IDC’s Kusnetzky concurs. "Many enterprise application developers know Unix and its interfaces -- the POSIX interfaces -- quite well," he observes. "Interix allows Unix developers to continue using the tools they know, the processes and procedures they know, and develop applications that will run on Unix or Windows NT."