Planning For A Peaceful Coexistence

Mixing and Managing Windows NT and UNIX in the Enterprise.

There's been no shortage of articles, seminars, products and discussions focused on oneor more technical component of Windows NT-UNIX integration. What has been missing, thusfar, is a roadmap that companies can use to establish meaningful metrics for NT-UNIXcoexistence. Until now. Chris Wood

Interestingly enough, the prevailing industry opinions regarding Windows NT and UNIXhave remained relatively unchanged. Ignoring vendor viewpoints and other vested interests,these opinions can be summarized as follows:

  • UNIX is more robust -- and will likely remain more robust -- than NT in terms of performance, capacity, scalability and stability.
  • NT is improving and has achieved levels sufficient for growing numbers of workgroup, departmental, divisional and some corporate-wide uses. Moreover, NT is the primary development platform for many application vendors.

IT managers embarking on mixed UNIX/NT projects would be wise to give some thought towhat should be done in either category. The motivation for doing so is to addressproactively (or maybe reactively) each of the following Integration Drivers.


How can I share storage between NT and UNIX systems?

How can I consolidate storage (i.e., use a single storage array for all my NT and UNIXneeds)?

How can I backup and restore files for a mixed environment?

Is there a single backup/restore solution that can be used for both NT and UNIX?

What are my storage availability options such as RAID, triple mirroring, remotemirroring?


How can I print from NT to UNIX-based printers and vice-versa?

How can I consolidate my printers, for example, to reduce the number of physical printqueues and/or print servers?


How will my UNIX-based applications access my NT-based databases and vice-versa?

How do I determine which operating system best runs the database product I'm interestedin?

Is there any way to reduce the number of different databases I'm currently running?

Remote Application Display

How can I use remote application schemes -- such as X-Windows, Citrix -- to reducenetwork bandwidth and simplify desktop asset management?


How do I integrate my corporate e-mail system (e.g., HP OpenMail) with my departmentale-mail servers (e.g., Microsoft Exchange)? How would I migrate from one to the other?


What are the Internet components needed for my E-commerce initiative (Web servers,storefront software, transaction monitors, Web traffic managers, etc.)?

What is the best platform for these components?


Is there any way for my company to exploit object technology (object request brokers,transaction monitors)?

Which framework/broker should I use, e.g., something CORBA-based or DCOM?

Do I have to choose or can I bridge the two?

Job Scheduling

Does a department or enterprise-wide job scheduling capability exist for NT and UNIX,or do I have to address with custom-batch scripts?


How can I most effectively deal with security issues such as authentication andauthorization, given that NT and UNIX each has its own unique approaches and requirements?

Monitoring & Management Frameworks (for all theabove)

How can I establish a single monitoring and management framework that covers both NTand UNIX?

Given the time, energy and money required to establish this framework (if one trulyexists), should I make the investment?

If your NT/UNIX coexistence needs are substantial, engaging in a formal "NT/UNIXCoexistence Assessment" is probably very justified. The deliverables from thisassessment should include models of where you are now; where you want to be and a detailedroadmap that describes how to get there.

HP's Colliance program, along with its OpenView and Enterprise Desktop ManagementServices (EDMS) suites, covers most, if not all, of the above integration categories. Forexample, a manufacturing company decides to deploy SAP as their mission-critical,company-wide ERP solution. They bite the bullet and invest a lot of time with thenotorious SAP-sizing questionnaire. They quickly realize that, given their requirements,UNIX is the only real game in town -- and opt for clustered HP 9000 database andapplication servers.

They come to the simultaneous conclusion that for "specialty" servers such asreporting, Web and remote access systems, NT is more than up to the task -- and opt for HPNetServers for those purposes. This example is becoming more the rule than the exception.The aforementioned company is fully exploiting the respective power and cost effectivenessof UNIX and NT.

Most companies that have NT and UNIX integration requirements started out as UNIX shopsthat decided to add NT. This is a very established and easy to understand phenomenon. NThas lots of momentum with software vendors and is usually cost-effective.

A newer and growing trend is those companies that start out with NT and decide toreplace or augment them with UNIX systems. An example that explains this tendency is asmall- or medium-sized company running Oracle applications on NT but was"jolted" by a spurt of acquisitions that required support for 500 concurrentusers instead of the 300 being nicely served by NT. Fortunately, the company was able toprotect their investment by re-deploying the NT systems as application, e-mail andfile/print servers.


Theoretically, all IT actions should be driven by business needs. In practice it can sometimes be difficult to stick to this principle. Despite this, the questions, "How does this impact an identifiable business need?" and, "How can I measure this impact?" should be asked of all NT-UNIX implementations.

NT and/or UNIX?: Numerous factors need to be considered when selecting NT or UNIX or both. Things like application availability, support staff availability and background, acquisition costs, total cost of ownership, performance, capacity, scalability, resiliency and ease of management are but a few of the considerations.

Application Selection: Business needs, not operating systems, should dictate application (and database) selection.

Server/OS Selection: Now it's time to select the operating system -- NT or UNIX or both!

Integration Drivers: Whether or not you think they apply, make sure you learn about all available integration drivers listed in this article as a starting point.

Scrutinize: Make sure you understand each of these integration drivers and what, if any, potential near-term or long-term benefits they bring.

Review Costs: Be careful! Sometimes the ultimate cost of implementing an NT-UNIX integration capability will exceed any derived benefits. On the other hand, biting the bullet and establishing an integration feature now (single sign-on, for example) may be a good idea even if the true benefits are not realized until later.

Implement: Use your own resources or external solution providers if necessary.


Past predictions about the demise of UNIX under the crushing onslaught of Microsoft'sWindows 2000 Server are a thing of the past. While NT has made inroads into theenterprise, UNIX shipments have continued to grow, albeit more slowly than the stillrelatively new Microsoft server operating system. According to the latest market figuresfrom Dataquest, UNIX shipped over 425,000 units last year vs. NT's 1.3 million.Conversely, it probably comes as no surprise that vendor revenues generated from sales ofUNIX-based systems are, on average, significantly greater than NT. Other operating systemslike NetWare, OS/400 and MVS will not vanish, but aren't expected to do much more thanhold their own relatively small market shares.

In a nutshell, the server operating system landscape is now -- and will continue to be-- mostly comprised of high volumes of low to midrange NT systems and smaller volumes ofhigher-end UNIX-based systems. All UNIX systems vendors have plans for porting UNIX toMerced, anticipating what many believe will be strong customer interest in running UNIX ona 64-bit Intel CPU. If anything, UNIX's value has increased as its performance, capacityand reliability characteristics have attracted users building larger-scale ERP, supplychain management, business intelligence and around-the-clock E-commerce storefronts.

If you're not running NT and UNIX, you probably will be soon enough. So it pays toinvestigate where you can "glue" them together in order to maximize efficienciesand minimize complexity.

-- Chris Wood is the alliance manager for Forsythe Solutions Group(Skokie, Ill.), the largest nationwide reseller of Hewlett-Packard computing equipment forthe past three years.