Microsoft Unveils Interoperability Ware

Microsoft Corp.’s acknowledgements that Windows NT needs to coexist in heterogeneous environments is now a tangible reality: the Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack, the company’s initial foray into the interoperability arena.

"Microsoft is delivering on a promise we made to customers to provide a tool that helps simplify interoperability between Windows NT-based workstations and servers with pre-existing Unix installed base," explains Yusuf Mehdi, director of Windows marketing at Microsoft.

According to Microsoft, the Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack delivers features and benefits frequently requested by IT managers. Some of these features include sharing resources between disparate Windows NT and Unix systems, performing remote administration on Unix systems from the Windows NT platform, synchronizing passwords between platforms and providing a common language or environment across platforms.

Microsoft is using the products of a number of independent software vendors to facilitate interoperability. Intergraph Corp. (www.intergraph.com) provides its Network File System (NFS) gateway software -- Access NFS Gateway client and server – which helps Windows NT machines access files on Unix systems, and vice-versa. Microsoft is also using the KornShell scripting environment from tools vendor Mortice Kern Systems Inc. (www.mks.com), which includes more than 25 Unix scripting commands and provides homogeneous scripting automation across both Windows NT and Unix platforms.

The Add-On Pack also includes a TELNET daemon to facilitate remote management of Windows NT systems from the Unix platform.

The Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack is only one option for administrators of heterogeneous environments. There are similar tools from vendors such as Hummingbird Communications Ltd. (www.hummingbird.com), Softway Systems Inc. (www.interix.com) and WRQ Inc. (www.wrq.com).

"As with many other things, Microsoft's first effort in this area is really an attempt to feel out the market's true requirements rather than a finished product," says Dan Kusnetzky, director of worldwide operating environments at International Data Corp. (www.idc.com). "If an organization did a feature-by-feature comparison, for example, they might decide to purchase Interix from Softway Systems."

Industry analysts and Windows NT-Unix interoperability vendors believe that even with the Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack, Microsoft still has a lot of ground to cover. Chris Rogers, a product marketing manager with WRQ, says even with the recent Microsoft concessions to Unix, there is room for improvement.

Products from WRQ, Hummingbird and Softway Systems, for instance, provide access to a greater variety of Unix and IBM hosts than does Microsoft’s Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack.

But in the end, Microsoft is making positive overtures. "Microsoft has begun to understand that operating environment adoption isn't a zero sum game -- that is, just because a new operating environment is brought in for one task, another isn’t sent to the loading dock," Kusnetzky says. "Furthermore, Microsoft wants very badly to become a member of the enterprise software club. They've discovered that to be treated as an enterprise citizen they must be a good network citizen."

Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack Features:

  • Access to NFS Gateway client/server software from Intergraph Corp.
  • Microsoft TELNET daemon for remote management of Windows NT systems from Unix machines
  • Password synchronization across disparate Windows NT and Unix environments
  • KornShell scripting and 25 scripting commands from Mortice Kern Systems Inc.