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IBM boosts its Windows NT help

Big Blue has committed $80 million to a multiyear effort to help Microsoft beef up the next version of Windows NT with high-end server features.

IBM has committed $80 million to a multiyear effort to help Microsoft beef up the next version of Windows NT with high-end server features.

The effort will focus on writing drivers and other operating system components that will let Windows 2000 systems swap out defective memory, hard disks, and even CPUs without having to shut their computer down, said Brian Sanders, brand manager for IBM's Netfinity line of Intel-based servers.

The effort will take place at IBM's Kirkland Programming Center, which has been the primary interface between IBM and Microsoft since 1993 and is about 5 miles from Microsoft's digs. The facility, which currently has about 125 employees, has been renamed the "Center for Microsoft Technologies."

The fancy technology is part of IBM's X Architecture plan to migrate high-end server technology into its Intel server products. Eventually, the new features will be available for any server company to use, Sanders said.

IBM isn't the only company helping make Windows 2000 more appealing for higher-end servers. Compaq Computer also is helping by bringing high-availability and disaster recovery features to Windows from Compaq's Tandem NonStop, Digital OpenVMS, and Digital Unix operating systems. On a side note, Compaq also will rename Digital Unix Tru64Unix next week, according to Compaq's Tim Yeaton.

The initial product of IBM's expanded effort will be drivers and patches that IBM will distribute with its servers, but eventually IBM hopes to have the features ship with Windows itself, Sanders said. The ability to add or remove devices plugged into a server's Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots is in the current beta version of Windows 2000, he said.

"This represents a new level of cooperation between IBM and Microsoft," Sanders said.

Although IBM hopes to have support for the new technology ship with Windows, hardware vendors still will have to update their systems to make them able to use the technologies, Sanders said.

"We're not trying to do anything proprietary," he said, noting that IBM learned a painful lesson years ago when nobody signed up to buy the rights to its MicroChannel Architecture, an improvement over the existing system for plugging devices into computers.

IBM expects to gain a competitive advantage out of the effort by being able to sell servers with new features before anybody else, Sanders said.

"We'll be there first with it. It's our intellectual capital. Over time, it'll become more mainstream," he said.

Under the X Architecture initiative, IBM hopes that Windows servers this year or next year will have better storage systems, more efficient memory use, and better interoperability with other computer systems. In addition, IBM wants to bring its SP (scalable parallel) switch from its RS/6000 Unix machines to the Netfinity line, allowing several computers to be ganged together for higher performance.