Microsoft Improves Unix Migration Tool

Microsoft released a point upgrade to its Windows Services
for UNIX (SFU) as a free download Thursday, hoping to swing businesses
running on the fading UNIX OS to Windows Server.

SFU 3.5 lets Windows users work with the old-school multi-tasking
operating system as well as Linux, Hewlett-Packard’s HPUX,
IBM’s AIX and Sun Microsystem’s
Solaris.

UNIX, which enjoys a dominant position in the enterprise server market,
has been losing ground in recent years to Microsoft’s Windows and Linux.
According to a September 2003 report by research firm IDC, the worldwide
UNIX server market has declined more than $12 billion between 2002 and 2006,
while Linux usage is expected to increase 34 percent in 2003.

Microsoft officials are hoping to get some of those defecting UNIX users
to look at its Windows Server product line rather than Linux, which is more
familiar ground for UNIX administrators (the Linux kernel is a UNIX
derivative). IDC reports Windows servers are expected to grow only eight
percent in 2003.

Dennis Oldroyd, Windows Server Group director, said the typical customer
is running custom UNIX applications, such as a retail order management
system, on a high-end server. They want to keep the application, but the
server is nearing the end of its product lifecycle.

With SFU 3.5, Oldroyd said, developers can simply recompile the
application and place it on a cheaper Windows server using the same commands
they’d use in a UNIX environment. It makes for easier administration,
because IT workers who know UNIX can use its familiar tools and utilities on
the Windows platform.

“One skill-set is applicable across platforms,” Oldroyd said. “You can
run scripts that you wrote for a UNIX box on a Windows box. There’s a more
robust set of resources for the UNIX IT pro, and the environment that they
would expect in UNIX.”

The release is important for mixed shops running both UNIX and Windows
machines, said industry analyst Rob Enderle. He said the point release isn’t huge, but addresses a series of shortcomings in version 3.0.

“This allows the two platforms to more seamlessly work with each other,
and it removes a lot of the cost of making things work.”

Oldroyd said Microsoft has enhanced performance of SFU 3.5 across the
board. The biggest gain, however, in version 3.5 is found in the Interix
subsystem, which re-compiles UNIX applications for the Windows operating
system. Normally a time-consuming project, Oldroyd said they got between 30
and 150 percent faster throughput times for Interix on SFU 3.5.

In internal tests, it increased throughput on the network file system
(NFS) — which lets users see files in both UNIX and Windows environments —
and network information server (NIS) — a directory service for Windows
Server 2003 that incorporates UNIX — about 50 percent.

The point release adds support for multi-threaded applications and
portable operating system interface for POSIX threads. It also
offers enhanced tools and utilities, for example, by including a library set for
graphical applications. The upgrade includes new versions of make, bind, sendmail, gcc,
gdb, tar, and FTP . New to version 3.5 is a dynamic registry,
which allows administrators to make changes to system settings without a
reboot.

“Microsoft rightly understands that to scale into the enterprise, Windows
needs to be as interoperable as possible with UNIX systems,” said Jupiter
Research Analyst Joe Wilcox. “This new release of the services for UNIX is
just an extension of this interoperability effort, which has been going on
for some time.” (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by
the same parent corporation.)

Microsoft’s SFU 3.0 is usually sold for $99 a seat, but version 3.5 is available as a free download, said Microsoft’s Oldroyd.

“With the increased emphasis on return on investment and reducing total
cost of ownership in the last few years, there’s greater discretion around
IT investments,” Oldroyd told internetnews.com. “That’s the business
situation into which we’re releasing the product.”

Jupiter’s Wilcox said he saw the free download as less about competing with free software, however. “This is more about Microsoft moving Windows up in to the enterprise than it is about Microsoft competing with Linux,” Wilcox said. “Not only does
Microsoft want to sell more copies of Windows to enterprise customers, but
this also is in the best interest of some of Microsoft’s partners that also
sell into the enterprise. ”

In May 2003, Microsoft licensed
UNIX technology from SCO Group , whose lawsuit against IBM claiming copyright infringement in some parts of Linux is working its way through the courts.

Also, SCO has cemented its relationship with Microsoft by providing
SCO Authentication for Microsoft Active Directory, giving end users the
ability to use a single login for a mixed Windows and UNIX environment, one
of the new features in SFU 3.5.

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