Microsoft's Interoperability Strategy Moves Forward with Interix 2.2

Microsoft Corp. ( purchased Softway Systems Inc. last September to gain its Interix suite of utilities and developer tools for Unix and Windows NT interoperability.

The Windows NT and Interix combination was certified as a solution -- that can be used in Unix’s stead -- by The Open Group (, an organization that tests and certifies products for conformance to Open Systems Standards.

"If Microsoft wanted to call the combination Unix, they could, but competitors might object, saying that there are holes in the solution," says Dan Kusnetsky, director of worldwide operating environments at International Data Corp. (IDC,

But the NT-Interix combination was pitched to several government agencies and was adopted rather than a Unix solution, Kusnetsky says.

Interix gives Unix users a familiar environment and set of tools to leverage their existing Unix expertise. For example, the tools and utilities behave as they would on other Unix systems, eliminating the need to retrain users. The software suite enables users to use Unix development styles, while providing a migration strategy beyond rip-and-replace.

Kusnetsky says Microsoft bought Softway because it faced customers who were unwilling to rip-and-replace Unix systems with NT systems.

Taking its interoperability strategy forward, Microsoft this month released to manufacturing Interix 2.2, a version specifically for Windows 2000. Microsoft says the software lets users take advantage of key aspects of Windows 2000, such as manageability and access to Windows-based applications, while continuing to use Unix applications.

The suite provides more than 300 utilities and tools, and is integrated with the Windows desktop, security model, and file system. Interix 2.2 is a native subsystem to Windows, enabling the running of Unix applications. Interix 2.2 also provides extensive scripting support and enables users to maintain the use of common scripting languages and tools.

The Interix 2.2 Software Development Kit, which is included with Interix 2.2, supports more than 1,900 Unix APIs and helps ease migration of existing Unix applications to the Interix environment.

As of March 1, users of previous Interix versions will be able to download a free upgrade at

Microsoft officials say Interix is only one piece of the company’s interoperability puzzle.

"In the future, we plan to combine this functionality with Microsoft Windows Services for Unix into one Unix application migration and interoperability solution," said Keith White, director of Windows marketing at Microsoft, in a recent statement.

Acknowledging that Microsoft has come under attack for disingenuous interoperability efforts, IDC’s Kusnetsky says this is a step in the right direction.

"If Microsoft appears to want to get along in heterogeneous network environments, more people are likely to put Windows 2000 in such a scenario than if [Microsoft] appears to want to take over enterprise networks," he says.