Common ground for Windows and Unix

By Tere' Parnell, Network World |  Operating Systems

When you need to share data files between Windows and Unix platforms, you can turn to Network File System (NFS). With NFS, any client can access remote network resources as if they were in the client's native format.

You can host NFS files on any NetWare or Windows NT server, but NFS server software and the data traffic attendant to it can put a heavy load on your network servers. An alternative to weighing down your general-purpose network servers is to install a specialized NFS server. But if you choose to use one of these expensive behemoths, you take on the labor-intensive task of having to load, configure and maintain corresponding NFS client software on every client that must use it.

Luckily, there is a better way -- the NFS gateway. These applications manage resource access between Windows clients and NFS servers. By handling NFS connectivity from a central platform, an NFS gateway obviates installing NFS software on each client.

We compared NFS gateways that run on Windows NT Server to evaluate their relative features and benefits. We lined up products that would not require modifications to existing clients or application software, but would allow clients to perform all tasks in the native client environment.

The products we examined were Hummingbird Communications' NFS Maestro Gateway 6.1.1, NetManage's InterDrive Gateway 5.0, WRQ's Reflection NFS Gateway and Xlink Technology's Omni-NFS Dual Gateway software.

Overall, our comparison contained no slouches. We were pleased with the performance and manageability of all the participants. Each product provided necessary NFS resource access with good performance. And even though all the NFS gateways scaled from a few dozen to thousands of users, Hummingbird's NFS Maestro Gateway scored more points in this area because it scales with the most ease and flexibility.

Thanks to its scalability, many useful management features and thorough support for Network Information Service (NIS) for tracking Unix-based resources, we gave the Network World Blue Ribbon Award to Hummingbird's NFS Maestro Gateway. However, it is important to note that Hummingbird's product is by far the most expensive package for a 100-user license.

Manageability

If an NFS gateway doesn't streamline management, why have it?

Therefore, we weren't surprised when all our entries scored well in this category. They all support the latest version of NFS. NFS Version 3 includes far more management features than previous versions. Each product allowed all clients to be managed from a single console. They also enabled printer sharing between the two operating environments, file and directory browsing, and individual user mapping. All let network administrators define more than one set of access rights for NFS resources, making it easy to restrict access to resources by different types of clients.

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