Air Force calls for Unix-to-NT port

In yet another sign of the growing predominance of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, the Air Force last week tapped a four-vendor team to pilot an initiative to move command and control applications from Unix to Windows NT.

Under the cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) signed last week, the team of vendors— Microsoft, Decision Science Applications Inc. (DSA) , Intergraph Federal Systems and Softway Systems Inc.— will work with the Air Force Electronic Systems Center (ESC) to select an application, then document the time and effort it takes to make the conversion.

The Defense Department traditionally has developed applications for the Unix platform because of its high performance and reliability. But with the advent of more powerful PC platforms, the Air Force wants to test the viability of porting its command and control applications to Windows NT, which requires less expensive hardware and software than Unix.

"We are interested in [learning] as much as we can about the difficulty of doing this,'' said Col. Richard Picanso, director of ESC's Command and Control Unified Battlespace Environment, which is a facility where ESC tests applications before they are deployed to the field. "We view [the CRADA] as a no-risk opportunity to answer that question."

The Air Force is not funding the conversion effort but is providing the vendors with valuable insight into the command and control environment, Picanso said.

In assessing candidate applications, the team will be looking for a software program that is unclassified and "fairly modest in size,'' said Jim Fucillo, a vice president at DSA. "We are anxious to have a quick success [so we can] begin reporting these metrics to senior Air Force leadership.''

DSA is an Arlington, Va.-based systems integrator that specializes in command and control and management information systems.

Microsoft and Softway Systems have worked on similar application migrations at the Navy and at other agencies using Softway Systems' OpenNT software, which is designed to allow Unix applications to run on Windows NT.

Intergraph, which was one of the first workstation vendors to move from Unix to Windows NT, will provide the hardware.

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