Microsoft touts NT scalability

Microsoft senior researcher James Gray tries to persuade Windows NT devotees that the operating system will soon be ready to take on Unix.

2 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft (MSFT) senior researcher James Gray crawled out of his lab "will="" nt="" take="" over?"=""> to persuade Windows NT devotees at the Windows NT Intranet Solutions conference that the operating system will soon be ready to take on Unix.

Citing the company's focus on high-end features such as clustering software and transaction servers, Gray told a half-filled hall that the NT 5.0 operating system--which will debut next month at a developer's conference in San Diego--is ready to handle large environments, as well as layouts requiring "thick" servers to service "thin" clients.

"We're heading toward a world where we'll have billions of clients," said Gray, noting the variety of devices that will soon contain an OS. "In that world, there will be a huge demand for servers."

Windows NT 5.0 Workstation will offer a tool called IntelliMirror that gives users the choice of saving their files to a server as well as a cache on local disk. This method requires large servers, since the server and workstation communicate to resolve versions of files before a user can access their data. NT is also expected to play a significant role as Net PC computers roll out.

Gray also acknowledged NT's current limitations, but he said that on a price and performance basis the OS offers a compelling reason to switch from Unix systems. He also said clustering--a method to string together server computers to act as one system--will be the key in providing large NT computers.

The researcher said that Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition will ship within the month. The souped-up derivative of the base operating system includes the company's Cluster Server, transaction server, and message-queuing technology. Other enterprise versions of the SQL Server database and Exchange will arrive before the end of the year. A server, code-named Hydra, that allows a variety of clients to access an NT server will also ship before year's end, he said.

At a press conference following the presentation, Gray said current Intel bottlenecks in bus technologies for servers are the primary barrier facing Windows NT scalability.

"It's a serious problem right now," he said. "Software is limited by physics."

"Other Unix vendors cleared those bottlenecks earlier," he said, referring to the high-speed bus technologies that ship with many Unix-based systems from Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard.