April 1, 1997
Many organizations are moving toward a combination of UNIX, Windows 95, and Windows NT systems. Interoperability requires the ability to manage heterogeneous configurations in an integrated manner, the ability to share data files, and the ability to share application programs. With the proper hardware and software, systems can be linked together in a common network, users can communicate via e-mail, files can be transferred from one system to another, and access can be provided to applications loaded on different types of systems.
None of this occurs today, however, without considerable effort on the part of both the system vendor and the user. Ideally, a vendor should be able to provide both types of systems since this provides the understanding of system idiosyncrasies necessary to make interoperability work. Unfortunately, only a few vendors (Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Digital) provide both types of systems.
The number of UNIX systems being shipped today is up only slightly from a few years ago while Windows NT is starting to take off. As an example, market researcher IDC claims that 725,000 copies of Windows NT Server were shipped in 1996 compared to 602,000 UNIX servers. The ratio of Windows to UNIX desktop systems is probably more like five to one today.
Sharing Files In A Heterogeneous Environment
Interoperability between UNIX and NT is rarely 100 percent transparent, but with the proper tools and procedures, it can be fairly painless. The most serious interoperability problem is providing secure file access across divergent systems. An example of how this is being addressed is Hewlett-Packard’s new Enterprise File System (EFS). This software implements a single file naming convention for workstations, servers and PCs running a variety of operating systems including UNIX and Windows NT.
With EFS, an NT user in Europe with appropriate access rights, can retrieve a file from a UNIX system in California without extensive knowledge about that system. It just requires the proper pathname for this to occur. HP has built security features into EFS that prevent unauthorized users from accessing files that are restricted to certain groups of individuals.
Some readers may feel that they can already do this with NFS (Sun Microsystems’ Network File System), but NFS is basically designed for use on a local area network (LAN). Without getting into the gory details, which only a system administrator would enjoy reading about, this is neat technology that can help organizations work with a blend of UNIX and Microsoft-based systems (3.1, 95, and NT). It is particularly useful in situations where different systems are scattered around the globe.
Microsoft and HP Team Up
An indication of how serious HP is becoming concerning the exploding market for Windows NT systems, was the recent joint announcement HP made with Microsoft. The two companies have agreed to:
- Offer software products and services that will help reduce the total cost of ownership of enterprise information management systems. This will involve HP’s professional services organization which will offer system administration consulting support to user organization. HP will also incorporate Microsoft’s Zero Administration Windows (ZAW) initiative into its system management products:
- Combine HP OpenView network management software with Microsoft’s System Management Server to provide better administration capabilities.
- Promote common messaging standards to facilitate the exchange of e-mail between HP’s UNIX systems and those running Windows NT.
- Provide HP consulting services and system support to NT users.
- Cooperate in many other areas of joint system software development and technical support.
It is obvious to us that HP is preparing itself for the day that UNIX runs out of steam. We feel that this is a significantly better approach than currently being taken by Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics, both of whom respond "NEVER" when asked when they might support Windows NT. This latter attitude works against users who for one reason or another, find themselves in the midst of a transition to NT.