NT Adds On UNIX - Almost

In trying to muscle its way into the enterprise, Microsoft has made a commitment tointeroperate Windows NT with as many platforms as possible. By providing software tosupport IBM SNA and OS/400, Novell NetWare and Apple Macintosh, it's trying to eliminateany reason to exclude Windows NT from your network.

But, one of the most common complaints has been a lack of UNIX interoperability.Microsoft's new selection of tools designed to provide the essential software necessaryfor Windows NT to interoperate with UNIX systems is bundled in the Windows NT Services forUNIX Add-On Pack (SFU).

SFU goes a long way towards addressing some common NT/UNIX interoperability problems.In the past, Microsoft has maintained that these concerns were addressed by providingsolid, basic TCP/IP services such as file transfer with FTP and printing with LPR/LPD. Ofcourse, everyone knows that more is required for true interoperability.


One of my biggest complaints has been lack of support for Sun's Network File System(NFS). NFS has long been the most common way for UNIX systems to act as file servers.While third-party products have been available, SFU is Microsoft's first attempt at an NFSserver and client. In fact, Microsoft is using Intergraph Corp's (Huntsville, Ala.) AccessNFS Gateway product in SFU.

The NFS client allows NT to access files on any NFS server. The client is tightlyintegrated into NT so shared files appear in Windows Explorer like local disks or NTshares. The NFS server is also tightly integrated with NT: It's a native Win32 APImultithreaded kernel application. Security is provided with the Windows NT domain securitymodel so that standard security practices don't need to be modified.

The server supports all NT file systems (FAT, NTFS, CDFS and HPFS) so you can share anyfiles. A GUI is provided to make managing the server quite straightforward. Both theclient and server support NFS 3.0, which provides good performance and is backwardcompatible.

SFU addresses another common complaint: password synchronization. A new service allowsusers to keep a common password between NT and UNIX. The service automatically sends anupdated password as either clear or encrypted text to the UNIX system whenever it'schanged in NT. The synchronization only works in one direction: NT-to-UNIX. In otherwords, changes on the UNIX side will not be reflected on NT, so users must always changetheir passwords from NT.

To aid in remote administration of both NT and UNIX systems, a telnet client and serverare included. The client supports a wider variety of terminal types than the one includedwith NT. The server is actually quite stable, unlike the telnet server provided in earlyNT Resource Kits.


An important feature is support for NT LAN Manager (NTLM) authentication. Now you canmanage an NT system through telnet while using NT's built-in security. This is importantbecause telnet logins can be readily tracked in the event viewer and group permissions andrights can be enforced. NTLM authentication works only between NT telnet clients and NTtelnet servers.

A basic Korn Shell (licensed from Mortice Kern Systems) is included with 25 commandsthat are a subset of MKS Toolkit. These commands provide the basic structure to allow aUNIX person to work in NT. Additionally, basic scripts may be ported from UNIX systems torun on NT. All the fundamentals are here including ls, cat, chmod, more and grep. Alsoincluded are the vi editor and sed, the stream editor. Perhaps the most importantinclusion is perl, the popular scripting language interpreter, which means that manyaspects of system management can be automated.

There are still some pieces missing from SFU for true coexistence. My pet peeve hasalways been the lack of a free sendmail equivalent and POP3 server support. It's beyond mewhy this fundamental communication software isn't included with NT or available free fromMicrosoft. Other noticeable missing elements from SFU are tools to read UNIX tapes, suchas cpio and tar and compression tools such as GNU zip.


SFU has the feel of an unfinished product. It appears to be a product released early inorder to satisfy demands from users. There are other very fine products in this area,notably the MKS Toolkit (the full package) and Interix from Softway Systems. (See"Migration Without Migraines," HP Professional, November, 1998 for a discussionof these tools.)

I would also argue that because the goal is to get NT deeper into the enterprise,nearly everything in the package (with the possible exception of the NFS server) should berolled into NT's base operating system. If support for NetWare and Macintosh is included,why not support for UNIX?

Windows NT Services for UNIX Add-On Pack is available now for an estimated price of$149. It requires either NT Server or Workstation 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or above.

--Ryan takes on 64-bit server software in next month's issue.

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