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Iit's raining 32-bit operating systems! Actually, it's the flying debris from the battle over the Intel-based PC, where Microsoft Corp. is besieged by IBM Corp., Novell Inc., The Santa Cruz Operation Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., and Univel. Even if Microsoft keeps the lion's share of the market, the leftovers make an irresistible target. A small piece of the PC action is a lot of action.
With Windows NT, Microsoft has launched a strong counterattack, threatening to extend its dominance to new areas, such as engineering workstations and mission-critical file and application servers. In fact, the new 32-bit operating systems all focus on making high-end PCs suitable for client/server networking. This explosive market is shaping up to be the next major battleground for OS supremacy.
To be a contender means providing more efficient use of processing power and more storage capacity, plus more fault tolerance, security, robustness, connectivity, and manageability than the previous generation of 16-bit operating systems could offer. And there are some pretty formidable contenders. Windows NT may have put the rest of the OS world on the defensive, but its competition is strong nonetheless.
This article compares Windows NT and Advanced Server with five 32-bit enterprise networking solutions. Microsoft's new OS is facing IBM's OS/2 version 2.1 plus LAN Server 3.0, Novell's NetWare 4.0, SCO's Open Desktop, SunSoft's Solaris 2.1, and Univel's UnixWare.
All of these products run on IBM PC-compatible machines with Intel x86 processors, and all offer 32-bit operation, unsegmented memory, hardware protection, and network connectivity. Each is armed with a feature set suitable for mission-critical applications. And each is being promoted by experienced, well-heeled companies, which are pulling no punches in their efforts to succeed in the client/server market.
WINDOWS NT AND ADVANCED SERVER: BREAKING THE ROOKIE JINX? Windows NT and Windows NT Advanced Server are totally new products, built from the ground up. Windows NT features everything users and developers could have asked for, as well as a number of things they didn't even know they wanted. But the newness of Windows NT is a double-edged sword. For the prudent, "new" means untested, unstable, unsafe. On the other hand, new means that all of Windows NT's major features are part of its fundamental design. The integration is immediately evident when you use Windows NT. The cohesiveness of Windows NT--from installation to network connectivity to performance monitoring--is stunning.
An example of how a new start paid off is in NT's adoption of 64-bit disk addressing. With other 32-bit OS implementations, a disk volume can't exceed 4 gigabytes. Though this seemed infinitely large a few years back, it's beginning to seem smaller by the month. With Windows NT, a volume can be many millions of gigabytes.
Microsoft has taken two approaches to avoid the problems traditionally associated with the first release of a product. One is to ship an unprecedented 60,000 copies during a beta program that has lasted more than a year. The other is to name the first release 3.1. Will this combination of science and magic break the rookie jinx? …