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Microsoft: SFU 3.5 Wants to be Free

Microsoft is set to release version 3.5 of Services for Unix on Thursday that will mark the product's official debut as freeware.

"We decided that really this functionality should be core to the overall Windows proposition," said Dennis Oldroyd, a director in Microsoft's Windows Server Group.

The previous version of SFU cost $99, although Microsoft set the stage for the price drop when it began a promotion giving away SFU 3.0 in October. Prior to version 3.0, Microsoft charged $149 for SFU 2.0 and $99 for Interix -- two products that were combined into SFU 3.0.

Services for Unix is primarily an interoperability toolset, allowing for co-existence of Unix, Linux and Windows in enterprise networks. The many tools in SFU allow organizations to blend their platforms for single sign-on, file and print accessibility and administration. Microsoft also promotes SFU heavily as a tool for migrating Unix applications to Windows.

"The reality is that heterogeneity is the standard and that people are going to have a mix of Windows, Unix and Linux. They want to get that interoperability without having to outlay a lot more expense," Oldroyd said.

Oldroyd said that SFU has hundreds of thousands of users and that Microsoft saw a large bump in use of the toolset when it cut the price for the 3.0 release. "Customers who should have access who may have impediments because of price," will take a look at SFU 3.5 now, Oldroyd said.

Microsoft has made a number of changes to SFU in addition to eliminating the price. Support is added for Windows Server 2003, which shipped after SFU 3.0 hit the market in mid-2002. Support is taken away for all versions of Windows NT 4.0.

Performance is improved for several core features. POSIX Subsystem File I/O performance is now within 10 percent of Win32 performance, according to Oldroyd. There is now clustering support for Network Information Services, a Unix directory technology. The Interix subsystem has been tuned so its performance on eight-processor systems is 50 percent better.

Redmond engineers dropped in new versions of bind, ftp, gcc, gdb, make, sendmail and tar. They added support for POSIX threads in Interix, enabling a whole new set of applications; included broader POSIX support and put in X11R6.6.

The product will be available for download at www.microsoft.com/windows/sfu/downloads/default.asp.

Last year, company officials had said that SFU 3.5 would be released in 2003 and a version 4.0 would come out in 2004. Oldroyd declined to revise the roadmap or provide specifics on the main focus of the 4.0 release. "We're looking at the feature set for that and taking customer feedback on that," he said.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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