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UnixWare 7: an attractive merger

UnixWare 7: an attractive merger

With so many x86-based Unix products available, it's a hard choice to pick which flavour is right for your environment. However SCO's UnixWare 7.0 is starting to make the choice a lot easier. What's more, it's now hard to fathom the dismissal by some folks of Unix-based servers in favour of Microsoft's up-and-coming Windows NT Server.

UnixWare 7.0 offers numerous enhancements and benefits that will make this release fairly attractive to many corporate environments as a distributed application or Internet services platform. And UnixWare's evolving integration features help this platform gracefully coexist in both NetWare and Windows NT Server environments.

SCO's OpenServer platform is already one of the most popular Unix products on the planet. UnixWare 7.0, formerly code-named Gemini, represents the combined evolution of both SCO's UnixWare 2.12 and OpenServer 5.0 x86-based Unix server platforms. The result of this convergence combines the best of both products, and offers the simplicity of one platform for SCO customers.

Overall, I was quite impressed with UnixWare 7.0. The product really takes away the blood, sweat, and tears of administering a Unix-based operating system but leaves the robustness of the platform intact. Almost all of the tests that I performed were successfully completed, although I did run into a couple of networking problems and I saw some sluggishness in a couple of operations that I performed.

The main new themes in this release of UnixWare are updates to key subsystems, the Common Desktop Environment (CDE), and much-improved graphical administrative utilities. But UnixWare also provides a number of bundled applications that sweeten the offering, making it fairly competitive with network operating system offerings such as NetWare and Windows NT.

Among the key infrastructure pieces are support for multipath I/O, which allows administrators to configure multiple SCSI host-bus adapters to provide redundant fault-tolerant service to a single storage drive array, and Hot-Plug PCI, which allows administrators to add or replace PCI adapter cards on the fly -- with-out bringing the system down. Hot-Plug PCI currently is supported only by Compaq, but other hardware vendors are expected to follow suit.

SCO also has bolstered the file system in UnixWare 7.0, adding support for volumes as large as one terabyte in size, as well as for single file sizes as large as 1TB. This is a mighty improvement for UnixWare; however, Novell is expected to support volumes and files as large as eight terabytes in its forthcoming NetWare 5.0, which should appear sometime this third quarter.

UnixWare also will support four-node clustering services through a partnership with Reliant, but this feature is available only as an option.

CDE enforces continuity across different Unix platforms by providing a consistent user interface, and most people who have used a CDE will agree that it also makes Unix a pleasure to use.

UnixWare 7.0's new CDE implementation continues this welcome trend.

Nonetheless, what I liked most about this product is its new graphical administration features, which take away much of the "guru factor" typically required for administering a Unix server. I was really impressed with the strides taken by SCO to make this product easier to manage.

For example, I was able to control just about every aspect of the system, including DNS, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, and FTP services, each from its own graphical tool. Because these services are traditionally managed from a text editor such as vi, the benefit is enormous to an administrator who handles several network operating systems.

The ps process manager tool also has gone graphical, and UnixWare 7.0 sports a GUI- based System Monitor tool as well, which provides administrators with many of the same performance monitoring statistics as Windows NT Server's Perfmon tool.

Consistent with the product's roots, UnixWare 7.0 continues to provide a native implementation of Novell's NDS and NetWare file and print services. I found that UnixWare integrates very well into NetWare environments. Version 7.0 also provides access from Windows Networking clients.

Although various Unix platforms include Samba for this purpose, UnixWare provides two services: VisionFS for basic integration, and Advanced file and print services, which allows UnixWare to fit into a Windows NT domain structure.

Boosting the value already provided in this release are a number of add-on bundles, such as SCO's Tarantella application-brokering platform, Cheyenne's ARCServe backup utility, and Sun Microsystems' Java Studio JavaBeans development tool. UnixWare 7.0 also includes Netscape's FastTrack Server 2.0, LiveWire 1.0, and Proxy Server 2.5 to fill out its Internet-related services.

Although UnixWare 7.0 falls short of providing all of the product bundles that were expected, there is a lot of additional value in the box.

One disappointment, however, is that many of the included tools, such as Tarantella, require additional licences to be fully useful. Nonetheless, SCO offers a variety of UnixWare packaging options that make sense: For example, there is a Base Edition, a Messaging Edition, an Intranet Edition, a Departmental Edition, and an Enterprise Edition.

When it comes to running Unix, the two factors that generally drive up the cost are high-priced hardware and the shortage of technical expertise. UnixWare 7.0 allows you to lower both of these costs through Intel-based servers and better administration utilities.

Overall, UnixWare combines the traditional strengths of Unix operating systems with the value of low-cost PC hardware; this product really gives Windows NT a run for its money. Furthermore, UnixWare's strong integration features mean it can both compete and coexist with other network operating system platforms.

The Bottom Line

UnixWare 7.0

This release for Intel systems represents the convergence of SCO's UnixWare and OpenServer platforms. It offers a strong platform for distributed applications and Internet services.

Pros: Great graphical administration tools;updated hardware and subsystem support;various bundled applications; scalablepricing modelCons: Some minor problems and generalsluggishness; some bundled applicationsrequiring various optionsPlatforms: Minimum is Intel 486 or faster,with 16MB of RAM and 800 x 600resolution displayPrice: $1356 RRP for base units; $8356RRP for enterprise unit and $856 for 10-userlicenceUnixWare 7.0 is distributed in Australia by:

MUA

Tel (02) 9649 6621 Fax (02) 9436 0185


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