Microsoft to support basic Unix services with NT add-on pack

Sun calls move a "moral victory" for Unix

By Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld staff

May  1998
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San Francisco (May 18, 1998) -- Analysts are saying that new Unix integration tools expected to be released from Microsoft this summer could make migration from Unix to NT a whole lot sweeter for some customers.

The new software, called the Unix Add-On Pack for Windows NT, is essentially a blend of scripting technology that was licensed from Mortice Kern Systems, the makers of Windows NT scripting and migration tools and software configuration management (SCM) products, and software licensed from Intergraph called DiskAccess that gives Windows users network-based access to NFS-based file and print resources.

The MKS Toolkit is a port of about 25 common Unix Korn shell utilities.

According to Microsoft, the Add-On Pack will also include remote telnet administration and password synchronization features.

While the attitude of many Unix lovers towards Microsoft-built integration products is tepid at best, the idea of Microsoft-supported Unix/NT integration services is not entirely without its appeal.

Analyst reaction: Blessed integration
Martin Marshall, industry analyst at Zona Research in Redwood City, CA sees the Add-On Pack as a direct attack on Sun's key markets -- Internet service providers and corporate Unix users.

Marshall sees the Add-On Pack's ability to run Unix shell scripts on NT as a significant arrow in Microsoft's quiver. He says that until now, Microsoft's pitch to the Unix installed base has been, "All you've got to do is rewrite all your shell scripts. System administrators say, `Baloney! I don't want to debug them and hassle with that.'"

He says that Microsoft has done a "very intelligent thing" in licensing such Unix "commodities" as NFS and the Korn shell for NT, but Marshall points out that a large number of Unix utilities (the C shell, for example) remain unsupported.

D.H. Brown analyst Tony Iams notes that a number of third-party products have already provided most of the services available in the Add-On Pack. However, the fact that such integration products are now Microsoft-blessed will make integration easier for administrators, he says.

Good for Unix?
Unlike Marshall, Solaris Marketing Manager Sanjay Sinha does not see the software as a threat to Solaris. Quite the opposite. He sees Microsoft's move as an acknowledgment that Unix will not be knocked out of the enterprise by NT. "This is good news for Unix," says Sinha. "Previously [Microsoft] thought the whole world was Windows, but having tried that for seven years, they've found that Unix is not going away -- in fact it is thriving."

Sinha points out that Sun already moved to support NFS integration with its SunLink PC software. This has been shipping with Solaris 2.6 for almost a year now.

But will Unix users actually use this stuff?

"There are a number of religious zealots in the Unix community," says Marshall, "but at the end of the day these are just tools for getting the job done. I don't expect them to react negatively to something that allows them to get the job done."

One Sun engineer (and self-proclaimed Unix zealot) who asked not to be identified calls Microsoft's move a "moral victory for Unix." He adds, "Microsoft acknowledges that there are Unix servers out there. And there always will be Unix servers out there. Microsoft is not making it big in the server market. With this product they're acknowledging that NT is not a good product, and they need to live with Unix."

Microsoft is scheduled to deliver a beta of the Unix Add-On Pack this summer for the two platforms that NT runs on, Intel and Alpha. Pricing information is not yet available.


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