OEM Utility on NT 4.0 CD-ROMs
Microsoft inadvertently included an OEM utility, rollback.exe, on the Windows NT 4.0 CD-ROMs. If you plan to move, or have moved, to NT 4.0, physically secure the CD-ROMs to prevent someone from accidentally running the utility, and be sure to delete copies of this utility on your servers. Also, in the case with the CD-ROM, place a reminder not to run rollback.exe so that nobody forgets.
A user would need at least write access to the Registry and NT system files, so restrict physical access to your NT Server computers--at minimum, by enforcing good security controls such as the use of system keylocks and judicious use of the Log On Locally user right.
Symantec Fix for pcANYWHERE 7.5
After learning that pcANYWHERE 7.5 for Windows NT and Windows 95 could cause a system crash after installation on certain advanced Intel-based NT systems, Symantec announced a fix. The problem is most likely to occur on systems with highly advanced graphics cards, such as OpenGL accelerator cards. For example, on an Intergraph TDZ-400 with the powerful GLZ-1 video card, running Windows NT 3.51 with Service Pack 4, I installed pcANYWHERE and rebooted to make the changes effective. On reboot, the system gave a blue-screen PAGE FAULT error condition and locked up. After resetting the computer, I rebooted with the Last Known Good Configuration, by pressing the Space key after choosing to boot NT. The system was then stable and reported no error conditions.
I uninstalled pcANYWHERE to head off further problems. Uninstall also required rebooting, which again caused a page fault. I cured it only by using Last Known Good once more. (I suspect the installer doesn't properly handle de-installation when you use Last Known Good and that the faulty video handler is reloaded.) This time, the system started properly, although it showed a Service Failed to Start message on bootup.
Technicians at Symantec tell me that the very latest video drivers for a display card can solve the problem and that pcANYWHERE will often run in VGA mode or with a less-advanced video mode. Check Symantec's Web site, www.symantec.com, for the fix.
Oracle vs SQL and DB2
Oracle is going after the NT market with a vengeance. It's got Microsoft and IBM worried.
Oracle's sales force has a reputation for being aggressive, and the fact that Oracle has assembled what appears to be a Windows NT task force has both IBM and Microsoft paying close attention.
Why? Because the NT database market is still wide open. According to Shari Simon, VP of NT Solutions Sales, Oracle has assembled a team of 150 to go after the NT market, making sure the Oracle message isn't delivered just to the data centers of large organizations. The NT team will complement the existing sales force, pitching Oracle as an application server in midrange firms. Microsoft declines to release figures on SQL Server sales, but the figure is probably around 100,000 cumulative sales, with far fewer than that actively deployed. This summer, however, following Oracle's announcement about its NT sales force, Microsoft advertised for more than 100 new SQL Server field engineers, mainly for its international market.
A possible surprise underdog in the race for the NT database market is DB2. Part of DB2's strong position is attributable to Janet Perna, general manager of data management in IBM's Software Solutions Division since 1991. She has moved aggressively to consolidate DB2's platform-dependent offerings into a shared "common technology," based on the million lines of C/C++ code that DB2 version 2 platforms (which include NT, AIX, and OS/2) share.
In the database community, DB2 has a certain cachet, and before one copy of DB2 for Windows NT hit the streets in July 1995, more than a million copies of DB2 were already installed worldwide (more than 750,000 on OS/2, 250,000 on AS/400s, 7000 on MVS, another 7000 on VM and VSE, and more than 5000 on UNIX platforms). IBM sales engineers, like their Oracle counterparts, also have reason to think that the prestige of DB2 will let them capture new customers who will eventually need to upsize to more expensive versions. According to Perna, "The sales force is very focused on NT. This is mainline to us."
As areas of strength, Perna cites channel campaigns, IBM's 1300+ DB2 ISVs, and a sales force that is quick to trumpet DB2's technical superiority in areas like remote database administration from any network node and tight integration with NT, to the point of taking advantage of NT kernel threads. Thanks to object extenders for audio, video, image, text, and fingerprinting, IBM also has a better object/relational story than either Microsoft or Oracle, whose engines support only long binary or long raw data fields. (In response to IBM's advantage here, Oracle typically says, "Wait until 8.0," referring to the next major release of Oracle, which will be object-oriented and support distributed objects.)
Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM aren't the only relational database management system (RDBMS) majors fighting for the NT market. In fact, all the major RDBMSs, including Informix, CA-Ingres, and Progress have NT versions of their database servers. Most now consider NT a first-level reference system. In other words, new releases come out first on major UNIX platforms and NT. Warehouse and online analytical processing (OLAP) vendors including Arbor, Essbase, and Oracle's Express are also fighting to grow their segment of the market, arguing the OnLine Transaction Processing (OLTP) products simply will never be good at the retrieval and multidimensional approach they take. Vendors are all working to give their channel some incentives, recruit more developers and ISVs, and form alliances.
Most vendors offer low-cost, entry-level products. (Microsoft claims more than 30,000 downloads of the 120-day evaluation copy of SQL Server 6.5 in the first four months of the offer and charges $1399 for a five-user license.) IBM's DB2 2.1.1 costs $995 for one developer and, like Microsoft (with Internet Information Server--IIS) and Oracle (with WebServer 1.0), offers a free copy of its Internet Connection Server. Also, IBM's developer program is free (Microsoft offers several levels of Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) support starting at $295, and the Oracle Developer program costs $395). In addition, IBM has formed an alliance with NetObjects, whose Fusion product is popular for building and managing Web sites. For more information on DB2 for NT, see www.software.ibm.com/data/db2/db2v2.html. For information on Microsoft SQL Server, go to www.microsoft.com/sql.
Internet Treasure Hunt Winners
The Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Internet Treasure Hunt concluded August 15. More than 19,000 people entered the contest on Windows NT Magazine's Web site in an attempt to win one of three Compaq Pentium Pro computers. Participants had to search the Web sites of Microsoft, Intel, Compaq, and Windows NT Magazine to find the answers to 12 questions. More than 3000 people completed the hunt, and 50 won copies of Windows NT Server 4.0, 47 won copies of Windows NT Workstation 4.0, five won a one-year subscription to Windows NT Magazine, and 45 won a Windows NT Magazine T-shirt. The three grand prize winners, Ted Crow, Kevin Adams, and Blaine Yates, each received a Compaq Pentium Pro, a copy of Windows NT Workstation 4.0, and a Windows NT Magazine T-shirt.
Ted Crow of Lima, Ohio, is a computer consultant and president of Crow Computer Services, a company he founded. The company installs, integrates, troubleshoots, and maintains computers and networks for area companies. Ted uses NT Workstation as a stable platform for software development projects, 3D rendering, and graphics processing. He considers NT his OS of choice and has been a Windows NT Magazine subscriber since the premier issue.
Kevin Adams of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, works for Merck & Co. in the executive information systems group. His work includes administration and support of 12 servers, including seven NT servers, and database administration of four SQL servers. He is currently on temporary assignment to Merck's French office, supporting NT servers and client desktops.
Blaine Yates is a sales representative for Retro Link in Provo, Utah. His department runs data-intensive processes and switched to NT for its stability and processing speed. So now that you've won the treasure hunt, Blaine, what are you going to do? "I'm going to Disneyland!" says Blaine.
IBM Does ClusteringIBM's Way
IBM recently unveiled a clustering plan to facilitate technology sharing across IBM's four server families. Look for the first wave of this shared technology to emerge early next year. IBM's event-management middleware, under the code name Phoenix, provides failure monitoring and recovery and event management that reports system and software occurrences to a management system. IBM will port Phoenix from the Scalable POWERparallel server to all the other AIX-based models in the RS/6000 server family. Soon afterward, IBM PC Servers running NT or OS/2 will also support Phoenix.
For application developers, IBM will open a set of APIs as part of the shared technology implementation. These open APIs represent a significant effort from IBM in its push for a clustering standard. By enabling access to Phoenix services, the APIs let independent software vendors (ISVs) develop highly tailored applications to take advantage of high-availability clustering. Companies such as BMC Software, Informix Software, Netscape Communications, Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP America, and Sybase are lining up to support the APIs.
According to IBM, this new technology will push beyond the current standard of clustering, which requires clustered systems to be physically near each other. In contrast, IBM's technology allows boundless scaleability: Systems can be physically extended, even geographically dispersed.
How will IBM pull off this strategy? The key is to optimize workload balancing. According to IBM officials, IBM's middleware will know the unique characteristics of every server in a cluster and be able to route work accordingly to ensure fast processing.
The one caveat is that IBM's clustering effort doesn't fit with Microsoft's Wolfpack clustering APIs. So if you have an environment of mixed NT servers from other companies, you may have a choice between Microsoft and IBM's clustering solutions.
Pentium Pro NT Machines Replacing Low-, Midrange UNIX
1997 will be the year of the Pentium Pro. And the combination of Windows NT and Intel's Pentium Pro line spells "Wintel" and reduced market share for UNIX workstation as users look for low-cost replacements for UNIX workstations. Major hardware players HP, Compaq, Digital Equipment, and IBM have lined up to produce Pentium Pro workstations outfitted with NT and high-powered graphics.
One good turn deserves another, and certainly Microsoft deserves another good turn. Thanks to Intel's Pentium Pro processor, NT is enjoying great success in the workstation marketplace. The changes Intel made to the basic x86 architecture have bolstered NT's acceptance in the marketplace.
Look inside the Pentium Pro, and you'll see why these systems are poised to take hold of the market in 1997:
- Multiple-branch prediction for tracking numerous branch instructions
- Data flow analysis to minimize data dependencies
- Speculative execution that lets the processor predict results and then begin to execute other instructions
- An Advanced Processor Interrupt Controller for multiprocessing and better cache coherency
Who's buying NT? The Pentium Pro's improved integer and floating point performance and NT's support for the OpenGL graphics library have caught the eye of technical application vendors, who are responding to user demand by porting applications to and developing applications for NT.
Technical users who have traditionally used UNIX workstations are looking to NT as easier to support, better for integration with Microsoft's Office applications, and a friendlier development environment. Besides power users in the commercial market, prime new customers for the NT/Intel workstations will include technical users, engineers, scientists, and small companies looking for low-cost systems and software. The fast-growing animation market is also quickly embracing NT and is expected to expand the low end of the workstation market.
Where does that situation leave UNIX? This platform retains a sizable chunk of the user base at the market's high end. For users who are involved in detailed analysis, full assembly modeling, and floating point-intensive applications, UNIX still rules. And of course, companies that have considerable investments in customized tools and software will remain on UNIX.
The paradigm shift won't occur overnight. Don't expect to return to your office after New Year's Day to find all the UNIX boxes replaced with Wintel boxes. Traditionally, the workstation market moves slower than the PC market. Though shipments of Intel-based workstations are expected to surpass those of traditional RISC-based UNIX systems by the end of 1996, analysts expect Intel-based sales to continue to dominate the commercial side of the workstation market.
Microsoft has reportedly sold 150,000 units of NT 4.0. The numbers are not booming. However, a lot of people are taking a close look at NT 4.0, so it's just a matter of time before we'll see and hear the Big NT Boom. Just ask Parametric Technology (PTC) about its sales of NT-based Pro/Engineer. Its sales already account for about 20% of new license sales, with the remaining 80% selling for UNIX platforms, according to PTC officials.
Implications? No one doubts Pentium Pro boxes running NT will continue to heat up the low end of the market, but watch for HP, Digital, and IBM to deliver both UNIX and NT systems. On the other side of the mountain, workstation leaders Sun and SGI will probably stand fast with their UNIX RISC roots. We'll have to wait and see whether this tactic turns out to be RISCy business.
History shows that software vendors will follow any hardware and operating system that drive the bulk of computing masses. As volume shipments of new Pentium-class NT workstations surpass traditional workstations, expect a flurry of new applications written for NT.
Motorola Announces NT Systems
Motorola announced two PowerPC-based systems: PowerStack II, which will run Windows NT or AIX, and StarMax, which will run Mac OS. Motorola designed the PowerStack II line to have better price/performance than Intel-based Pentium Pro 200 systems. (The Windows NT Magazine Lab will test this claim in a future issue.)
Motorola claims that by the second quarter of 1997, it will offer systems that will run Mac, NT, or AIX. Some insiders speculate that customers will be able to configure a system with all three OSs and boot among the three.
By making systems that run Mac and NT, Motorola could provide an easy Mac-to-NT transition strategy. Suppose a particular Mac-centric industry (e.g., desktop publishing, graphics, or video editing) starts moving toward NT. Users who bought such a Motorola solution could use their Mac software while hedging their bet on NT, without purchasing another system. The same strategy applies to existing AIX customers. This scenario is speculation, but achieving this capability could help Motorola reach its goal of attaining a 6% share of the NT systems market by October 1997.
Motorola also mentioned, but did not announce, a 32-bit emulator that will let PowerPC-based NT systems run native NT/Intel applications at a slightly reduced speed. This magazine has reported that Microsoft is working on this feature, but Motorola says it has purchased the emulator technology from Insignia Solutions, experts in software emulation. This technology and Motorola's commitment to convincing ISVs to port to PowerPC will help accelerate the PowerPC's acceptance by NT users. For more information about these developments, see www.mot.com.