Microsoft "supports and usurps" Unix

Support and usurp. This appears to be Microsoft's Unix strategy as it launches the latest upgrade of its Windows Server operating system.

At a recent media briefing in Singapore, David Lowe, senior product manager, Windows Server, Microsoft, cited interoperability with Unix as one of the key features of Windows Server 2003 R2.

R2 is built on the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and is geared towards specific workloads such as storage management, branch office server management, as well as identity and access management. It also provides a subsystem which supports Posix applications.

Posix is a set of open system standards based on Unix. According to Lowe, the subsystem will run separately from the Windows kernel, allowing applications to run natively on the hardware. This means no changes will have to be made to the code, and users can leverage on their existing IT investments and Unix development skills.

To manage the applications, R2 will provide shells - a command language interpreter - to run Unix scripts and Telnet clients. On the tools front, Visual Studio will provide a debugger for Posix applications. These developments will make it easier for users to migrate Unix applications to Windows, said Lowe.

In the area of storage management, R2 will provide support for the Network File System (NFS) that is native to Unix. NFS provides remote access to shared file systems across networks, and the latest development in R2 enables it to connect to Windows using native protocols, allowing Windows users to access file shares on Unix.

For identity and access management, R2 will support the Unix Network Information System (NIS), allowing for password synchronization between Microsoft's Active Directory and the NIS. The NIS enables the distribution of information in password and groups files to all hosts on the network. "If you have Unix resource servers and identity stores, you will be able to work with them in R2," said Lowe.

Aside from these developments, Microsoft is also entering the high performance computing (HPC) space which has traditionally been a Unix stronghold. It plans to release its Compute Cluster Server (CCS) by 1H 2006.

According to Doug Lora, senior product manager, HPC, Microsoft, the proliferation of Gigabit Ethernet and x86 architectures has paved the way for the cluster approach to supercomputing.

CCS provides simplified management, with a prescriptive approach to cluster setup and management. The integration with the Windows management infrastructure also reduces the need for specialized skill sets and helps reduce the setup time required.

In the CCS, jobs are run in the context of the user in Microsoft's Active Directory, meaning that security privileges and policies do not have to be set separately.

Microsoft is targeting Version 1 of the product at the automotive, aerospace, life sciences, earth sciences and financial services sectors, and is already beginning work on Version 2 of the product, said Lora.

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