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Developers get peek at Network OLE

Microsoft will give away a free beta copy of its Windows NT 4.0 operating system complete with the first iteration of its long-awaited Network OLE technology at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference this week in San Francisco.

Microsoft will give a free beta copy of its Windows NT 4.0 operating system complete with the first iteration of its critical, long-awaited Network OLE technology to nearly 5,000 developers at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference this week in San Francisco.

Network OLE--now known as Distributed COM, or DCOM--is the distributed version of Microsoft's OLE object architecture that lets documents or applications be stored as related but separate objects, or chunks that fit together to form the whole. Network OLE is an addition to the Windows NT Server OS that can track these OLE objects across a network and let them work together.

When it ships this summer, Windows NT 4.0 will become the first OS to include Network OLE, although the technology eventually will also surface in Windows 95. This week will be the first time that developers can examine the technology because a previously released beta version of NT 4.0 did not include Network OLE.

Network OLE, at least two years in the making, will usher in a host of distributed object technologies that Microsoft has been promoting to its enterprise users. Until now, OLE has been used to define objects stored on individual desktops, such as part of an Excel spreadsheet or graphic or another part of a document. While users could move the objects over a network, the network couldn't keep track of where the objects were stored. That meant that all the OLE objects needed for a particular application or document had to be kept on the same desktop.

By contrast, the CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) standard promulgated by most Unix vendors lets applications call objects anywhere on the network and run them as if they were stored on a local machine. This means that many applications that previously ran on a single machine will now run unmodified across the network.

Microsoft anticipates that the availability of Network OLE will create a new class of networked Windows applications, even though CORBA is already widely used on Unix-based networks.