A wave of new products from independent software developers and manufacturers willing to back MS OS/2 LAN manager suggest that Microsoft Corp has gone a long way towards establishing the product as the platform of choice for local area networks. The company seems to have driven home its message that the LAN Manager provides an open platform for the development of a new generation of network applications. But with deals with companies such as Ashton-Tate and Digital Communications Associates already in the bag, perhaps that was hardly surprising. By moving competit-ion a level above the LAN Manager, the network industry hopes to overcome incompatibilities which have hindered the growth of the networking market and Microsoft believes that wide availability of the product through OEM suppliers will help the push for standards by offering users a choice of products using a common platform. Possibly in London At the first of two Microsoft Advanced Network Development Conferences held in San Francisco the other week, some 35 software developers announced over 50 applications for OS/2 both for the LAN Manager and for SQL Server, the database management system for OS/2 network servers. And at the second conference, in New York City last month, 21 hardware manufacturers – included in the figure of 35 in total – announced that they would take licences to the LAN Manager – among them AT&T, NCR Corp, Tandy Corp and Ungermann-Bass from the US, Apricot Plc, Nokia Data and Olivetti from Europe, joining the likes of 3Com Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co, Excelan Inc, Digital Communications Associates Inc, and Torus Systems Ltd here. IBM is of course also using the LAN Manager in its OS/2 LAN Server. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates reckons that the Manager is now established as the strategic LAN platform and that, with the SQL Server, will enable a whole new generation of applications come to market. Microsoft Ltd OEM manager Bill Inglis agrees, saying that European conferen.cw 8 ces are planned too, one in Frankfurt, West Germany at the end of this month, and another, possibly in London sometime during the year. Microsoft has distributed 400 MS OS/2 development kits in Britain alone and is expecting to see more applications. First out with an implementation of LAN manager will be 3Com, preparing a launch for June. Microsoft claims that MS OS/2 LAN manager offers a development platform that supports advanced network applications important to workgroup productivity, whatever that piece of hyperbolic flackery may mean. It supports both MS-DOS and OS/2 applications, and specifically supports true distributed applications that share processing among different workstations and servers on the network. Directed pipes The applications announced at the California conference fall into three categories: standard MS-DOS and OS/2 applications that work transparently across the network; applications that use specific MS OS/2 LAN Manager applications programming interfaces; and applications that call SQL Server interfaces and access data from SQL Server. With standard MS-DOS and OS/2 applications, the LAN Manager extends the OS/2 file structure and device input-output across the network so that OS/2 applications can be supported transparently. MS-DOS stations and applications, including MS Windows ones, are also supported transparently. LAN Manager also provides more than 120 applications programming interfaces that enable programs written to them to use and control network operations and resources, and will be optimised for the LAN Manager environ-ment. Among the interface calls that can be used for distributed applications are named, or redirected pipes; mail slots and ones for security. SQL Server is optimised for OS/2 networks and itself uses LAN Manager programming interfaces, and the third type of LAN Manager applications are front end personal computer applications that support SQL Server, or back-end database management applications. To faciliate its administration, SQL Server can be installed as a Manager Service. Among the companies with applicatio
ns in place is Consumers Software Inc, which has introduced OS/2 Network Courier, an electronic mail pack that supports MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows and OS/2 stations using LAN Manager, and is written to the NetBIOS interface and also supports other LAN Manager applications programming interfaces, such as security facilities and named pipes. TLB Inc has a new version of its Solomon accounting package, Solomon III, which will rely on a server database to store common data and provide security features, such as data-locking, for LAN Manager: it will use OS/2 multi-tasking and the large memory available on the server, and connect seamlessly with the application on the workstation, taking advantage of named pipes, printer functions and network administration facilities. SQL Server incorporates stored procedures, triggers and a transaction-oriented SQL kernel to guarantee data integrity and volume performance in a multi-user network environment, and one or two applications were announced for it. Saros Corp has a workgroup information manager that uses SQL Server to store documents and shared office information that can be accessed from micros on the network. Saros reckons that its document library and shared information service is a true distributed application, in that the processing is distributed by the network to the designated resource. Remarkably familiar Revelation Technologies has Advanced Revelation for OS/2, a front-end database that uses the features of SQL Server as a back-end database engine accessible over the network, and reckons the combination of SQL Server with products like Advanced Revelation will make possible true networked database processing. All sounds remarkably familiar, doesn’t it? In the 1970s, the typical small business computer consisted of a minicomputer from the likes of DEC or Data General running a multi-tasking, multi- user operating system, with a database manager of some kind on it, supporting perhaps 16 or 32 users working at dumb terminals. The customer who might have been offered one of those in the 1970s, is now being offered the functional equivalent, but with the terminals now approximating in intelligence to what is renamed the database server. And a rather more expandable version of the same concept is being offered by a host of companies promoting Unix servers for use with networks of workstations. The signs are that in the US, the Microsoft solution – which is a variant of what IBM has in mind for OS/2 will gain the upper hand, while here in Europe, Unix solutions look like being adjudged the better bet.