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July 7, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:01pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Giant US defense contractor Hughes Data Systems is to offer Windows NT running a native implementation of Unix called OpenNT on computers it supplies to the US government as part of a multi- billion dollar US Air Force Workstation contract as an alternative to other Unix solutions. It marks the opening of a new front in Redmond’s relentless campaign to drive NT right into Unix’s heartland territory. Ironically, San Francisco, California-based Softway Systems Inc never intended for its OpenNT Unix-on-NT software to be better than Unix, the idea was to promote co-existence between the two, says CEO Doug Miller. Hughes and Sun Microsystems Inc won the hotly-contested contract to supply up to 37,000 Unix workstations to the US Air Force over five years; it’s estimated that NT/OpenNT could be bid on up to $1bn of that business. Hughes is supplying DEC Alpha RISC systems running Digital Unix or NT/OpenNT, while Sun is delivering its UltraSparc workstations running Solaris. The contract’s recently been opened up to bids from all Defense Department agencies. Softway’s confident that OpenNT, which supports the majority of the Posix standards which are mandatory for US government agency IT contracts and which Unix already includes, will soon be also be carried on Intel Corp-based PCs by contractors bidding on vast contracts such as Desktop V. NT is already used by various government agencies, but not – so far – as a Unix alternative. SoftWay, which only introduced version 2.0 of OpenNT in May, says it’s still on track to receive full Unix 95 base branding for its software later this year after it adds outstanding internationalization work. OpenNT is a layer of software that runs on top of NT making it look, act and appear for intents and purposes, like a native Unix system. It’s been developed under a long-term agreement with Microsoft. Privately-held SoftWay, a 20- person shop which will be up to 50 by year-end, says it has 20,000 OpenNT evaluation units in the field and while it expects to do significant business on Defense contracts, says commercial sales are its long-term focus. It hopes to be able to go after European defense contracts once it opens its London-based subsidiary in the next 60 days. It’s being run by one of Miller’s former colleagues at Unix operating system company Interactive Systems.

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