Softway Systems Adds 64-Bit Support to Interix

Although 64-bit computing on the Wintel platform is many months away, Softway Systems Inc. ( is getting ready for the changes that it will bring. In early February, Softway announced that its Interix runtime environment will be ready to run 64-bit Unix applications on Windows as soon as Microsoft ships a 64-bit version of Windows 2000 for Intel Corp.'s Merced platform.

Softway's pre-emptive announcement of its Interix/64 could provide it with a competitive edge as more companies are looking to cut development costs without sacrificing choice, according to Dan Kusnetzky, director of Unix and client/server environments at IDC Research ( "The Interix folks have done a fairly good job of scoping out what the market needs now and what it's going to need shortly," he says.

Softway's customers, which include Fortune 1000 enterprises, the government, VARs and ISVs, use Interix to take advantage of the lower total cost of ownership of NT without abandoning an existing Unix code base and expertise, says Francoise Bollerot, director of product marketing at Softway. Customers who develop their own software also use Interix to create a single code base for both Unix and NT platforms.

Because of its compliance to Unix and POSIX standards, Kusnetzky says, "for all practical purposes, if you put Interix on NT, you have a Unix environment." As a result, companies can develop software without being forced to choose between operating systems, he adds.

Interix/64 will conform to version 2 of the Open Group's Single Unix Specification, which Softway says will enable almost all software written for 64-bit Unix systems to run on Windows 2000. Existing 32-bit applications will also be able to run on Interix/64, and be able to interact with 64-bit applications via shared memory, named pipes, sockets, common files and COM. Interix has been certified as a full Unix system by the Open Group, which owns the Unix trademark.

While six versions of Unix already provide 64-bit support, Microsoft is still working on a 64-bit version of Windows. "We can see in what we're getting from Microsoft that they're putting 64-bit plumbing in NT," Bollerot says.

A 64-bit version of Windows, however, will handle certain data types differently than Unix, further complicating the already difficult interoperability situation. According to Bollerot, Microsoft plans to use 32-bit long data types and to create a new data type, called a long long, that will be 64-bit. Unix, on the other hand, uses 64-bit long data types.

Nevertheless, Softway still has a difficult time selling NT products to Unix developers, Bollerot says, despite its advantage over other Unix runtime environments on NT. Softway’s software bypasses the Win32 API and interacts directly with the NT kernel.