Microsoft provides free tool to tackle Unix-Windows migration, integration

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday pulled the lid off of its new, enhanced Services for Unix (SFU) 3.5, which not only boasts new capabilities but is being distributed for free.

Designed for organizations with mixed Windows and Unix environments, the SFU enables users to integrate Unix with Linux, or to migrate Windows applications to Unix or Linux. However, SFU has been tested only with Red Hat Inc.’s versions 7 and 8 of Linux.

Originally priced at US$99, Microsoft has decided to provide SFU 3.5 for free, downloadable from the company’s Web site, in an effort to counter the trend of users migrating from Unix to Linux, and to offer incentive for them to migrate from Unix to Windows.

Mike Cherry, lead analyst, operating systems at Directions on Microsoft — an independent research firm focusing solely on Microsoft — in Redmond, Wash., said many users are currently looking to move away from proprietary Unix platforms, and are most are considering Linux as a replacement platform.

“There are a lot of organizations that have had a huge investment in proprietary Unix. What a lot of these organizations are doing is looking to move off these proprietary platforms to a low-cost Intel [Corp.] or AMD [Advanced Micro Devices Inc.] hardware,” he explained.

Primarily, the company that has been hurt the most with this trend has been Sun Microsystems Inc. with its Solaris SPARC systems, Cherry said. He noted that while these are good systems, they are simply too expensive for organizations to keep up with.

Microsoft’s SFU, he said, is a necessary strategic application for Microsoft to level the playing field so organizations don’t completely disregard Microsoft’s Windows platforms as a potential replacement for Unix.

However, Cherry was dubious of the price change being a big incentive for users to adopt the application.

“US$99 to free isn’t much of a change,” Cherry said. “US$99 probably covers their cost of putting it on CDs. I think that all they’re doing is removing cost as a barrier, but the other thing that I think is more interesting about this is that it’s a pretty impressive set of tools — it’s actually won some awards from the Unix community for how well they’re implemented.”

He added that considering how expensive Microsoft’s other systems are, he finds it hard to believe that US$99 was an impediment to adoption of the production.

“It surely removes [cost as a] barrier, but it was neither, I think, a big money-maker for Microsoft or a big barrier,” Cherry explained.

However, Cherry said SFU 3.5 does what it is purported to do — that is interoperate a Unix and Windows environment.

Dennis Oldroyd, director, Windows server group at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., said enhancements to SFU 3.5 include a 50 per cent performance increase in throughput to the Network File Services (NFS) and Network Information Server (NIS) components.

“We’ve got significant performance [increases] on application execution and scalability on the Interix subsystem — we can now scale up to an eight-processor server, ” he added.

SFU 3.5 also supports the PThreads or Portable Operating System Interface for Unix threads capability. This enhancement broadens the set of applications and underlying tools that can be ported from Unix to Windows, Oldroyd said, because it allows an application to run multiple tasks at the same time.

SFU 3.5 supports Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Professional, and Windows 2000 Client and Server editions.

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