IBM announced the general availability of WorkSpace On-Demand (previously code-named Bluebird) last week, its version of OS/2 Warp optimised for Network Computing. The company is promising to bring enterprises some of the benefits of Network Computing - such as centralised storage and management - and allow them to deploy new Java-based thin client applications, while maintaining compatibility with existing application software. Like OS/2 Warp, WorkSpace On-Demand will run OS/2, Windows 3.x and MS-DOS applications and includes the Java Virtual Machine, allowing it to run 100 Percent Pure Java applications. The operating system also provides access to 3270 and 5250 host-based applications. WorkSpace On-Demand does not support Windows 95 or Windows NT applications, but the company says these applications can be run from a Citrix WinFrame server. WorkSpace On-Demand consists of two components: the client operating system and middleware residing on top of OS/2 Warp server. The operating system is also stored on the server, and downloaded to the client at boot up. It supports diskless PCs and standard PCs, but the local hard disk is only used for caching. It has a customisable user interface which can be a Java desktop, a Web browser or a simple graphical shell. For single-task workstations, it can be configured to boot up into one application without showing any other options. When a client boots up, it accesses the server and a correctly configured version of the operating system is sent to it. Different "images" of the client operating system are stored on the server, with a set of utilities to configure these images for the different clients on the network. Administrators can set up templates which include all the settings and drivers for a specific machine type, eliminating many of the steps normally needed to set up a client. Applications are stored and managed on the server but are run locally on the user's PC. The WorkSpace On-Demand management software allows system administrators to configure centrally, via drag-and-drop, which application icons will appear on which users' desktops. IBM is positioning WorkSpace On-Demand as a "transition product", designed to bring customers into the era of centrally managed network computing while allowing them to run existing OS/2, DOS and Windows 3.x applications. John Soyring, vice president of IBM's Personal Software Products division, calls it "the next generation" of OS/2. "We'll keep OS/2 'fat client' alive, but we're encouraging users to move to WorkSpace On-Demand, because we think they will make huge savings." According to Soyring, the first step in the move to Network Computing will be for users to move the complexity of the network to the server, where all operating systems and applications can be stored and managed. The second step will be to migrate applications to Java. "Starting this quarter, almost all new client-side applications should be developed in Java," said Soyring. WorkSpace On-Demand requires an OS/2 Web server, though the company said it intends to port the middleware environment to other server operating systems in the future. IBM says that the WorkSpace On-Demand server software will support the Network Station and other NCs as clients within the next few months. IBM is changing the positioning of its Network Station NCs. Whereas the current Network Station, though capable of running Java, is mainly being sold as a terminal replacement, its successor, the Network Station 1000, will be positioned as a device to run Java applications. The WorkSpace On-Demand shrink-wrap, which will include the server administration and management utilities as well as the client OS and one client licence, will be priced at $729 (#431). Additional server licences will sell for $699 (#413), with additional client licences going for $249 (#147). IBM: 01256 356144.
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