Microsoft aims to fix up NT for buyers of Posix
- By Florence Olsen
- Mar 04, 1996
SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft Corp. has enlisted Softway Systems Inc.
to make the Windows NT operating system comply with open systems mandates of the Air
Force, NASA and other agencies.
Softway Systems, of San Francisco, will deliver a Posix command shell and utilities for
NT by April 3, when the Federal Information Processing Standard for Posix.2 takes full
effect for federal procurements.
The $1.2 billion Air Force Desktop V procurement of notebooks, desktops and servers,
and the $1.8 billion NASA Scientific Engineering Workstation II procurement both reach
beyond Posix.2, requiring branded systems that conform to the X/Open Portability Guide 4
The XPG4 Base brand, backed by the X/Open consortium, is the only testing and
certification program for the Posix shell commands and utilities familiar to Unix users.
Roger Martin, chief of the Systems and Software Technology Division at the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, said "budgetary problems and changing
programmatic directions" have kept NIST from being able to certify products for
compliance with FIPS 189, the federal standard for Posix.2.
"There is no FIPS certification for Posix.2, but in my opinion, the X/Open
branding is a reasonable assurance," he said.
The X/Open brand guarantees that a product implements "100 percent of the [Unix]
application programming interfaces," said Graham Bird, director of branding for
X/Open Co. Ltd., which recently merged with the Open Software Foundation into a new
organization known as the Open Group.
The brand also guarantees that, regardless of fixes or new function releases, the
product will continue to conform and that if found non-compliant, it "will be fixed
within a prescribed time," Bird said.
At the Uniforum trade show here, Softway Systems officials said they will ship the
first OpenNT product, OpenNT Commands and Utilities 1.0, March 29. The company is to
deliver a complete X/Open-branded Unix version of the product for Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0
in the next 12 months, they said.
With the late-1996 or early-1997 OpenNT product, users can port their Unix applications
to NT "without changing a line of code," said Softway Systems' chief executive,
Douglas Miller. The applications will run in a true Unix environment but with full access
to Win32 applications and NT administration tools, he said.
Softway Systems will own the $199 OpenNT product, which will be marketed to companies
pursuing or holding large federal contracts. "We're going to make a big push in the
federal market very quickly," said Christopher Brown, director of federal operations
for Softway Systems.
Brown described OpenNT for Windows NT as "a self-hosted, virtual Unix environment
that runs on NT--not an emulation."
Stephen Walli, one of the principals of Softway Systems, is vice chairman of the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' technical editing committee for Posix.
Unlike DataFocus Inc.'s Nutcracker, which converts legacy Unix applications to native
Win32 code, Softway Systems' product will enhance the Windows NT Posix subsystem with
Berkeley Software Distribution sockets. The fully developed OpenNT product will let users
recompile their Unix applications in a native Unix environment on top of NT.
Softway's OpenNT Commands and Utilities 1.0 is supposed to satisfy Posix.2 compliance
in procurements that require Posix shell and utility interfaces. Unisys Corp. last year
won the Coast Guard's $280 million Standard Workstation III procurement with NT's existing
Posix.1 subsystem. Because OpenNT will make NT both Posix.1- and Posix.2-compliant,
"they need it," Brown said.
NASA's SEWP II and Air Force Desktop V mandate XPG4 Base-branded systems as the entry
threshold. Many vendors can bid XPG4-branded operating systems on
reduced-instruction-set-computing and other high-end systems, but the Santa Cruz Operation
Inc. is one of only a handful of companies with XPG4-branded products for Intel computers.
Two operating systems have earned the X/Open consortium's highest portability branding,
now called Unix 95: a version of Digital Equipment Corp.'s Digital Unix, due in March, and
Hewlett-Packard Co.'s newest HP-UX, scheduled for release late last month. IBM is working
on Unix 95 branding for its AIX operating system.
"I think we can give a lot of the credit for this standards activity to the
federal government for insisting on disciplined, consistent, predictable systems,"
said Donna Van Fleet, vice president of IBM's AIX Systems Development Division.
The Unix 95 specification, also referred to as the Single Unix Specification and Spec
1170, came out of an industry working group that analyzed 100 of the most popular Unix
applications and the 1,170 APIs those applications used most often. "Unix 95 came
about after analyzing applications, and that's how it will evolve in the future,"
Another working group has proposed extending the Single Unix Specification to 64-bit
operating systems and applications. SunSoft Inc. plans to develop its Solaris operating
system to the proposed 64-bit single-Unix standard. It will take at least two years for
the first 64-bit, X/Open-branded products to appear.
IBM chairman Lou Gerstner, speaking at the Uniforum trade show, said customers are
frustrated by "the many faces Unix shows. These differences are forcing customers to
learn and relearn, to program and reprogram," he said. "This is the single
greatest threat Unix faces today."