Windows NT is the hottest and most important operating system in some time. Microsoft has recently said it's betting the farm on NT 5.0. But just how popular is NT?
In its fourth quarter computer industry forecast, the Data Analysis Group reports that approximately 6 million NT workstations are in use today. Of those, 1.5 million were sold in 1996, and 1.43 million were sold in 1997. Analysts predict that by the year 2000, NT Workstation sales will rise to more than 5 million units annually.
Who is making money selling workstations that run on NT? Industry surveys show that in the first quarter of 1997, HP led the charge, with 37 percent (227,000 units) of all workstations running NT Workstation sold. Compaq came in second, with 29 percent (178,000 units), followed by Digital Equipment, with 14 percent (86,000) and Intergraph with 13 percent (80,000). Miscellaneous vendors account for the remaining 7 percent of the market.
The figures clearly show that vendors who previously announced robust support for NT have been rewarded with sales and have helped drive the NT operating system into the workplace. Market forecasts for the near future suggest that these firms will undoubtedly continue to enjoy their successes.
Surveys show that NT continually outsells UNIX, and the trend won't slow any time soon. For instance, estimates for 1998 are that NT workstations will outsell UNIX workstations by a wide margin—1.4 million to 575,000. The forecasts for 1999 are similar: UNIX will sell 450,000 workstations and NT 1.6 million. Apparently, high-end and mission-critical shops that have been traditionally UNIX-based are now placing more faith in NT.
NT Server is also making headway, mainly at the expense of Novell. Surveys released in August 1997 show that of the shops implementing NT, 72 percent of the NT servers introduced replaced NetWare servers in NetWare environments; 31 percent replaced UNIX servers in UNIX-based companies; 23 percent replaced OS/2 servers in OS/2 environments; 13 percent replaced Macintosh servers in Macintosh environments; and 13 percent replaced AS/400s in AS/400 shops. NT is hugely popular and gaining momentum, and not just the UNIX crowd is taking notice.
Document Management Is in Your Future
Organizations are creating more electronic documents than ever before, and sharing them over the Internet and intranets. The need to manage this content has created a burgeoning and highly competitive document management market. Many vendors, including PC DOCS, Documentum, and FileNet, offer tools that help organizations manage their data.
Historically, document management has been a vertical operation rather than an infrastructure issue for the mass market. Traditional document management was appropriate for document-centric applications with sophisticated management and control requirements—it was a niche solution, not a mainstream one. For example, traditional, specialized document management applications were the new-drug approval process in pharmaceutical companies and legal-document management in law firms. Contrast this specialization with a mainstream tool such as word processing, which every user in an organization needs.
But organizations are changing. With the increase in the volume of electronic documents (e.g., word-processing documents, HTML pages, email messages) in most organizations, basic management of these documents in one repository is becoming a horizontal need for every desktop in an enterprise. Although the industry debates who will prevail in the document management market, one company has quietly been entering the arena: Microsoft. By simply entering the market, Microsoft will increase awareness and accelerate the growth of the market.
Microsoft's strategy has been to build standard document management functionality and infrastructure components into Windows NT and Microsoft Office applications. As Microsoft starts giving document management away as part of the infrastructure, traditional document management vendors can add value by building complementary solutions on this foundation.
Microsoft's strategy.Microsoft hasn't made a formal announcement that it's getting into the document management business. But if you doubt that Microsoft is heading in that direction, look at the features supporting document management that are already creeping into Microsoft's operating system and applications:
- NT Server supports long file names, which simplify searching and categorizing.
- You can assign file attributes (e.g., categories, key words, authors, office routing) to any file stored in NT and any file created in a Microsoft Office application and use the attributes to categorize documents.
- BackOffice will include Index Server for indexing and searching files including Office files, Exchange public folders, email, and HTML documents stored in NT file systems.
- Site Server provides Web site content management (e.g., personalized content delivery, usage analysis, link maintenance).
- Message queuing will let vendors build replication for document management.
- Transaction Server will provide integrity for transactions (e.g., an order entry system and a document management system) that are executed across applications.
- Distributed File System will let users see files on different servers in a unified, logical view.
- Active Directory will mean that any system (including document management) can readily use the OS's user IDs, logons, security, and other functions that require directory services.
Microsoft's consulting group has pieced together a system called Microsoft Document Library, which provides some basic document management features such as check-in, check-out, and version control. The system is built on top of Microsoft technologies, including Visual Source Safe, SQL Server, and Active Server Pages (ASP). Although Microsoft is not likely to offer Document Library soon as a shrink-wrapped solution, its availability shows that Microsoft is interested in the document management market.
Putting basic document management functionality into the operating system infrastructure makes sense. With billions of dollars' worth of Microsoft Office products out there generating files, you can expect the infrastructure to provide standard library services. And a BackOffice repository is the logical place to store profile information for documents created with Office tools. Don't be surprised if Microsoft eventually introduces a document management server as part of BackOffice.
Web content management.Adding basic document management functionality to manage files is all well and good, but Microsoft is looking at a much larger picture: Web content management. Microsoft is going after the corporate Web business with gusto, and it shows in Microsoft's products. For example, all Microsoft Office applications can quickly generate HTML. A growing percentage of content developed with Office tools winds up in an intranet or on the Internet.
Clearly, the Web content management market has huge potential. The growth in the number of HTML pages alone in corporate America is staggering, and the need to manage these documents is critical. In most organizations, documents are scattered and difficult to find, and the Web publishing process is cumbersome and time consuming. Document management is a critical technology for attacking the problem. Features such as version control and renditions are perfect for Web applications.
As an indication of the potential in this market, Microsoft already has Visual Source Safe, which provides some basic Web content management capabilities. Visual Source Safe stores Web documents in a separate repository; a better solution is to use the common document management repository to manage client/server content and Web content, and to make the content available to users via Microsoft groupware and Web servers (Exchange and IIS). Using a common repository and services will make managing Web content no different from managing other corporate documents.
With Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 and Windows 98, Microsoft is blurring the distinction between operating environment and browser. IE 4.0 makes your Web browser and file management interface the same tool. By providing document management functionality and a central repository as part of this infrastructure, document management will be seamless to the user. And if Web content management is part of the operating system infrastructure, Microsoft will be able to blend document management with the BackOffice products, too.
The Web is where the action is for Microsoft. If traditional document management is a $500 million market today, the Web content management market could be worth billions of dollars, because so many organizations are building interactive Web sites with plenty of content that needs managing. Microsoft is in a great position to go after this market. Microsoft products are used to create most of the content in organizations, and the distinction between client/server content and Web content is becoming nonexistent.
Levels of document management.Microsoft's entry into the document management market is sure to make waves. It will contribute to the recent segmentation of the market. Each segment will provide different levels of value for end-user organizations and different price points. Likewise, the potential size of each market is different. The three market segments are
- Basic document management and file management functions for the mass market: If you don't need much more than garden-variety file management, you'll probably get such library services for free as a commodity in your operating system or office suite. The size of this potential market is huge, and this market will be Microsoft's initial target.
- Robust document management systems for horizontal applications that need more than basic file management: Today, groupware-based document management systems occupy this market segment. Such systems are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and relatively robust. The potential market size for this segment is smaller than the mass market, but larger than the traditional document management market. If this segment grows enough, Microsoft may enter the market, perhaps with a BackOffice product.
- Highly specialized document management systems for the vertical application space: Traditional document management systems, which offer sophisticated functionality and high value for specific vertical applications, will occupy the market space for vertical applications. These systems cost more than groupware-based document management systems and address the needs of a much smaller market segment than the other two segments.
Document management vendors can take heart from these developments. Microsoft is providing a solid foundation for document management, with many core services that these systems can leverage, and it is increasing awareness of the function. The successful vendors will take advantage of the market and provide solutions beyond those available in the infrastructure.
Samsung's New 700MHz Chip
Samsung Electronics has developed a 700MHz Alpha processor, which might be the fastest chip ever created; the company will start production of the chip in summer 1998. Samsung based the processor on the 0.25-micron chip design. The thinner chip wafer reduces the distance that electrons have to travel (so that manufacturers can pack more circuitry into a smaller space) and increases the processor's speed significantly. Samsung says the new chip's 700MHz clock speed is a conservative estimate; in all likelihood, the chip will run much faster.
The Alpha Won't Fade Away
Users of Windows NT on Digital Equipment's Alpha platform can rest assured that the Alpha won't go the way of the MIPS and PowerPC platforms and fade out of the NT market. Digital and Intel settled their lawsuit by agreeing to establish a broad business relationship. The agreement determined that Intel will buy Digital's semiconductor manufacturing operations for about $700 million. The deal also includes 10-year cross-licensing of patents and a firm commitment from Digital to develop NT offerings on both Intel and Alpha platforms.
As part of the agreement, the two companies also agreed that
- Intel will purchase Digital semiconductor operations in Massachusetts, Jerusalem, and Texas.
- Digital will maintain Alpha-related semiconductor design teams to continue development of the Alpha.
- Intel will provide Digital with Intel products and tech support.
- Digital will develop a full line of Intel-based products.
- Digital will port Digital's UNIX to Intel's IA-64 architecture.
- Intel will gain rights to produce and sell other Digital Semiconductor products such as StrongArm (a line of low-power, high-speed processors for handheld devices, embedded applications, and Internet devices), PCI-to-PCI bridge products (which link two processor domains), and Ethernet-related chips.
Digital spokesperson Mary Ann Mills said, "We want our Alpha users to know that Digital is definitely 100 percent committed to producing future generations of the Alpha processor."
Alpha fans need to realize that Digital isn't the only company manufacturing Alpha chips. Both Samsung and Mitsubishi produce chips based on Alpha technology. Samsung recently announced that in 1998, it will ship a 700MHz Alpha processor (see "Samsung's New 700MHz Chip"). Samsung's Young-Joon Kim said the firm will continue making Alpha technology as long as the market shows a need for it. Kim also said that even though Digital is getting out of the fabrication business by selling its manufacturing plants to Intel, Alpha technology development is still accelerating and is likely to do so for quite some time.
Sun Sues Microsoft
If you're considering Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 and Java as a development platform for your Windows NT intranet, you'll be interested in the lawsuit that Sun Microsystems filed against Microsoft. Sun claims that Microsoft breached its agreement with Sun to deliver a compatible implementation of Java technology in Microsoft's products, specifically Microsoft's IE 4.0 browser and its Software Development Kit for Java.
"Applications written using Microsoft's development tools may not run on other operating systems such as MacOS, UNIX, or other browsers such as Netscape Navigator," Sun stated. "Conversely, applications written using Sun's Java Development Kit that run on MacOS, UNIX, and Netscape Navigator may not run on IE 4.0." A result is that developers will create programs that operate only on platforms that use Microsoft's Win32-based OS.
Sun is seeking $35 million in damages and reimbursement for attorneys' fees. Furthermore, Sun will cut off Microsoft from any new Java technology until the suit is settled. Analysts say the suit could cause a loss of credibility for IE 4.0 and a loss of functionality down the road if Microsoft can't implement emerging Java features. Sun says Windows users will have complete Java access through Sun's Java Runtime Environment for Windows.
Microsoft's response, posted on its Web site, is that Microsoft is in compliance with all aspects of the agreement. Bill Gates told a panel of journalists in Switzerland that Microsoft's products pass Java compatibility tests better than any other products, including Sun's products.
Usually, companies don't reveal private contract information, but the two companies agreed to post the complete text of the license agreement on their Web sites. In addition, Sun has posted the amended lawsuit—the suit charges Microsoft with unfair competition, false advertising, breach of contract, and trademark infringement—and questions and answers about the suit. Microsoft has posted a contract FAQ online, in addition to the license agreement.
Sun says that in formal litigation, the court's opinion is the only opinion that matters. This statement is an about-face from an earlier statement that the company wanted to try the case in the court of public opinion. For more information, go to http://www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/contract.htm or http://java.sun.com/announcement/index.html.
RSA Donating Encryption Software
Almost every network—NT networks included—runs Domain Name System (DNS) these days. DNS acts as a phone book for Internet domain names and their associated IP addresses. But did you know that intruders can use your DNS server for fraudulent activity? Internet fraud comes in all forms, and a lot of shenanigans are based on DNS spoofing (a form of forging IP addresses). To help reduce fraud, RSA Data Security is donating encryption software to the Internet Software Consortium (ISC), current developers of the hugely popular DNS software known as Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND). BIND was ported to NT long ago, and thousands of shops use it successfully.
RSA's gift comes in the form of a free license for RSA's DNSsafe, a technology based on DNSsec. Use of the license will let developers better control malicious intrusion and help cut down on email spam that runs rampant on the Internet. DNSsafe technology makes forging domain name information more difficult, so people will be more confident that their communications are secure.
With the new technology, RSA and ISC say DNS could also become an infrastructure for storing and publishing cryptographic keys. For more information about obtaining DNSsafe, visit http://www.rsa.com.
Interchangeable AMD and Alpha Chips?
The processor race appears to be on again, and companies are jockeying for position. Intel's Merced, Digital Equipment's Alpha, Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD's) K7, and Cyrix's MXi have all been in the news.
Cyrix made some waves in the market by claiming it has gained access to Intel's secret new Pentium II Slot 1 technology (which Intel has developed to improve the processor's design and to thwart competition) through Cyrix's upcoming merger with National Semiconductor. But a more interesting story is a potential technology-sharing agreement between AMD and Digital. If developments unfold according to reports, AMD will incorporate important aspects of the Alpha chip into its next generation of processors. The result could be compatibility between the AMD K7 and Alpha processors, and their chips could become readily interchangeable on one motherboard. AMD hinted that its next chip, the K7, might end up including the Alpha's EV6 Bus Protocol. Having EV6 inside the K7 could mean that the K7 would become compatible with the Alpha chip to some extent. One day you might be able to interchange AMD and Alpha processors on a motherboard.
This type of compatibility could bolster competition against Intel's market dominance. AMD says the K7 will have a cartridge design similar to Intel's Pentium II cartridge, with chips running at over 500MHz. AMD gave no time frame more definite than 1999 for K7 production. Competition and consumer demand both sway product evolution and pricing, and competition almost always results in advantages for the buyer, as long as the manufacturers aren't too hasty in their rush to market, as with the Pentium 60 and Pentium 90 bugs.
HP's Off-Chip EPIC Compiler
HP has developed a 64-bit technology called Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC), which HP says will become part of Intel's Merced processor. HP expects chips integrating EPIC technology to eliminate bottlenecks and processing inefficiencies and increase parallel-processing capacities.
Today's processors are sometimes inefficient because the processor handles critical processor functions. But using EPIC, the processor offloads these functions to an off-chip compiler, which feeds the compiled instructions back to the processor for execution. The result is increased performance through the enhanced parallelism of the chips. Industry reports say that Intel will release the first Merced chips in 1999 and double Merced's initial performance by 2001. A 64-bit version of Windows NT 5.0 for Intel platforms will appear about the same time the Merced debuts. A 64-bit version of NT 5.0 that runs on the Alpha platform is in the first rounds of beta testing. HP is expected to develop systems based on Merced for high-end UNIX platforms that use as many as 256 Merced processors and for NT systems that use as many as 16 processors.
Cloning NT Systems Made Easy
How can you duplicate a Windows NT installation easily? System cloning, or disk imaging, requires that Security Identifiers (SIDs) and system names be unique. Several cloning products can change system names. But the NT installation generates the SID, so changing the SID to make an installation unique is more difficult in NT systems.
Several cloning product companies have developed solutions to the problem. These solutions let you quickly clone NT systems with simple image restoration procedures, instead of manually walking through the formal installation, system by system.
PowerQuest's solution is SIDchanger, an add-on for Drive Image Professional. SIDchanger works with NT 3.51 and 4.0. Registered owners of Drive Image Professional can download SIDchanger for free from http://www.powerquest.com/download/driveimage.html. PowerQuest plans to incorporate SIDchanger in its next version of Drive Image Professional.
In November, KeyLab was beta testing its new SIDgen tool, a complementary product to its ImageBlaster drive-imaging software. SIDgen not only works with ImageBlaster, but it can run as a system service that lets you change SIDs when a system boots. SIDgen works on NT 4.0. For more information, go to http://www.keylabs.com/software/sidgen/index.html.
Innovative Software's GHOST Walker is an add-on SID tool for the company's GHOST drive-imaging software. GHOST Walker works on NT 3.51 and 4.0 and is included free with the purchase of GHOST. For more information, check out http://www.ghostsoft.com/gwalker.htm.
IE 4.0 Security Problem
A problem with Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 lets a malicious Web page designer access files on your system. According to Microsoft, the exploiter can gain access to only HTML, text, and graphics files. You can thwart an intrusion by properly adjusting the IE 4.0 Security Zone settings. Microsoft has posted a fix to the problem on its Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/security/?/ie/security/freiburg.htm.
NT Registry Flaw
David LeBlanc, a security expert in Georgia, discovered a problem with the Windows NT Registry: Anyone can add programs that run at startup. The problem stems from upgrading to NT from previous versions of Windows in which certain Registry keys are configured so that the Everyone Group has unwarranted access to sensitive keys. To find out how to correct the problem, see Microsoft's Knowledge Base article Q126713 at http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q126/7/13.asp.