The US Air Force dropped a bombshell on Unix suppliers on Monday when it gave permission for OpenNT to be installed for the first time as a replacement for Unix in military computer systems.
The announcement, which clears the way for the potential sale of tens of thousands of NT servers, came with the confirmation of a five-year deal between the Air Force and a Microsoft-led consortium of suppliers to provide an integrated OpenNT/Windows NT solution.
OpenNT, from Californian software house Softway, gives a Unix look and feel on an NT system and is designed to aid migration to NT by integrating applications for both platforms. Compaq has already adopted OpenNT for a major NT migration contract with the Nasa space agency.
The "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" deal will see Hughes Data Systems provide the military with up to 37,000 64-bit Digital Alpha workstations and servers as well as peripherals, software, services and support.
No value was put on the contract, but although initially confined to the Air Force, the tendering process was recently expanded to include all branches of the armed forces, making it worth more than an estimated $1 billion to the various suppliers.
For Microsoft, the contract award is a valuable weapon in its battle to gain high end respectability for NT against the Unix installed base. "The Air Force and all other federal agencies have a compelling alternative to Unix," claimed Mary Ellen O?Brian, Microsoft?s national account manager for the Air Force and Navy.
She added: "The Department of Defense has been asking for an application development and deployment platform with the cost effectiveness and management ease of Windows NT and the standards of Unix."
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