WRQ eases access to Unix resources

WRQ eases access to Unix resources

Windows to Unix connectivity is not a trivial matter. X-Windows and NFS -- two of the most common Unix connectivity needs -- are labour-intensive to install and complex to configure. WRQ's Reflection Suite for X minimised the complexity of administering X, and now WRQ has applied its intelligent X-connectivity approach to NFS with its NFS Gateway for Windows NT 7.00, beta 1.

The result is impressive. The NFS Gateway for Windows NT installs on the NT server, mounts, then re-shares NFS from a Unix or VMS host. Once NT shares the drive, Windows 95 and NT users can easily connect to it through their Network Neighbourhood.

However, there are some trade-offs for this connectivity. Performance is nowhere near what it would be if the shared drive were local on the NT server. You could try to tweak network performance a bit, but you'll still find NFS slower than NT file sharing. Secondly, you'll have to spend some time setting up your user information so that it can adequately control access to files on the NFS server.

Fortunately, WRQ built a lot of user flexibility into the NFS Gateway to facilitate different access-control needs. But the NFS Gateway appears to be a bit of a resource hog on the NT side -- if you have many users (more than 30) doing intensive NFS operations, you'll find yourself adding NT servers to handle the NFS Gateway traffic.

Configuration ease

One attraction of WRQ's X-server product is its no nonsense approach to configuration. A wizard walks you through the setup, even scanning the host for X-applications for you to select. WRQ has certainly carried the same philosophy into the NFS Gateway. The configuration process is highly intuitive, with a wizard prompting for the NT and Unix hosts, as well as the NFS file system to share.

NFS Gateway also offers options for how you can make the drive available under NT. You can create a shared connection to the drive or a connection that only appears on the NT server. This can come in handy if you need to administer files on the NFS server but don't want those files to be shared on the Windows network.

Rough around the edges

I tested the beta 1 version of NFS Gateway and noticed few problems. One glitch that did occur was that the system I tested on -- with 32MB of RAM and a 200MHz Pentium with MMX -- seemed to be low on memory with just one user connected to NFS Gateway and nothing else running on the system. At one point, the system blue-screened when I opened Internet Explorer and tried to access a Web site.

I also encountered an error during performance testing. The system running NFS Gateway refused to copy my large test directory to the NFS mounted drive. Hopefully, WRQ will resolve these problems in the release version.

Limited to NFS performance

I tested performance by copying a 35.1MB directory tree with 4424 files and directories from an NT client to the NFS server through NFS Gateway. I then tested the same copy from the NT client to a local directory shared from the NT server. I also attempted to copy the directory from an NFS Gateway machine to the NFS server, which failed with an error message.

I found that the copy job took six minutes and 20 seconds going from the NT client through NFS Gateway to the NFS server. By comparison, the same copy job took three minutes and five seconds going from the NT client to the NT server's local drive. Obviously, there's twice as much network traffic on NFS Gateway when it's writing to the NFS server, but the performance hit is still significant.

WRQ's NFS Gateway for Windows NT might not solve all of your Unix connectivity issues, but the fact that it gives Windows clients access to NFS resources with no additional software on the client side is impressive.

If raw performance is your primary concern, you should try other solutions. But if you are migrating applications from Unix to NT, the NFS Gateway can ease the transition -- and it's definitely a cost-effective solution for simply granting Windows users access to your NFS resources. With management ease, NFS Gateway fills a gap in the Unix/NT connectivity market.

Reflection NFS Gateway for Windows NT 7.00, beta 1Reflection NFS Gateway gives Windows users access to Unix Network File System (NFS) resources without having to install any software on the client. Although it suffers from slower performance, NFS Gateway can be invaluable for administrators in mixed environments.

Pros: Simple to configure; flexible securityoptions; multiple disk mounting optionsCons: Appears to take significant systemresources; slower than sharing data fromNT; delivers limitations of NFS to WindowsclientsPlatforms: Windows NT 4.0 with ServicePack 3Ship date: MayPrice: $180 per seat (concurrent licence)Megatec Tel (02) 9955 6150 Fax (02) 9955 8178

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