Fed tests will soon show if NT, Unix can interoperate

Results from 60 federal pilots of OpenNT are expected early this year. Before the
Defense Department or NASA approves any large-scale deployments, however, Windows NT 4.0
and OpenNT must first prove their prowess as interoperable platforms. The trials could
last at least six months, government officials said.


"The OpenNT product would let me get off Unix" and potentially save the Navy
lots of money, said Capt. Michael Bachmann, program manager for the Naval TacticalCommand
Support System at the Space and Naval Warfare Center in San Diego. "Let's just say
this is at the top of my priority list," he said.


SPAWAR's OpenNT pilot will show whether the Navy's tactical applications, which
currently run on Hewlett-Packard Co. HP 9000 series reduced-instruction-set-computing
servers, would run equally well on lower-cost Intel multiprocessor servers.


"If we can migrate over time to a totally NT solution, we can eliminate the extra
Unix training for systems administrators," Bachmann said. Because of ship schedules,
it still could take up to five years to move the entire suite of fleet tactical computing
applications from Unix RISC servers and NT clients to an all-Intel NT network, he said.


The Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century initiative, led by Adm. Archie
Clemins, potentially could shrink that timetable to four years.


Two battlegroups will convert to the all-NT architecture this year, Bachmann said. Four
battlegroups are up for conversion next year. At that pace, he said, the Navy would
complete fleetwide NT installation in four years.


"If I can attain a 50 percent cost reduction and get the same performance, that's
a definite incentive to migrate," he said.


OpenNT has evolved in two years into a nearly complete Unix operating system, Softway
officials said. That has led a number of federal contractors to bid OpenNT whenever the
government required interoperability between Unix and NT.


"It's an interoperability tool, not just a porting tool," said Grover
Righter, a vice president of Softway Systems.


NT systems administrators need the Unix shell scripts and Telnet facility in OpenNT,
whereas NT application developers need OpenNT's Unix application programming interfaces
and Posix.2 subsystem, he said.


Softway's OpenNT/NFS package bundles those functions with Unix Network File System
software from Intergraph Corp. of Huntsville, Ala.


"Government is starting to deploy a lot of NFS on top of NT and Unix,"
Righter said. OpenNT/NFS acts as the glue that holds everything together wherever the two
network OSes coexist, he said.


In OpenNT/NFS, users get a Posix.2 subsystem, Unix shell scripts, Telnet, Network File
System and X Window System. The OpenNT Posix subsystem runs on top of the NT kernel so it
can't break NT's C2-level security, Righter said.


Microsoft Corp. and Softway Systems are working with the Defense Information Systems
Agency to certify Windows NT with OpenNT for DISA's Defense Information Infrastructure
Common Operating Environment.


"Our goal is certification in the first quarter of 1998," said Chris Brown,
Softway Systems' director of federal operations.


NT 4.0 and OpenNT 2.1 now are listed on at least six federal contracts, he said, such
as Air Force Workstation, NASA Scientific and Engineering Workstation, a Navy blanket
purchase agreement with Digital Equipment Corp. and General Services Administration
contracts.


Single-quantity GSA prices for OpenNT 2.1 are $696 for the server software and $160 for
the workstation software.


Contact Softway Systems at 703-904-4118.


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