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Microsoft's free plug-in helps Unix and Windows interoperate

From file sharing to subsystem functions, Windows Services for Unix is a multitalented tool for managing a combination of Windows and Unix servers.

This final installment in our series about Windows and Linux/Unix interoperability issues looks at a unique add-on from Microsoft that helps integrate

Managing Windows and Linux/Unix

Part 1: Integrating Linux and Active Directory isn't as daunting as you think


Part 2: Making a third-party OS and Active Directory integration a snap

your Windows and Unix systems and better manage a heterogeneous enterprise network. Windows Services for Unix (SFU) is a free tool you can download from Microsoft's Web site. Its features help you manage a combination of Windows and Unix servers in your environment.

The first of the interoperability features allows for improved file sharing between Unix clients and Windows servers through the use of the NFS file-sharing protocol. This service consists of two major components:

  • Server for NFS creates an NFS server on your Windows Server 2003 computers. It allows Unix clients to access files hosted on Windows computers without requiring any client software to be installed on the Unix clients themselves. You can manage NFS permissions using the NFS Sharing tab within the GUI, or by using nfsshare at the command line.
  • Client for NFS allows Windows computers to access files hosted on Unix file servers without installing additional software on the Unix hosts. Your Windows clients can browse for resources using the familiar Windows Explorer interface or by using Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path names and the net use command.

Services for Unix also includes an NFS Gateway service and a User Name Mapping function to map Unix user names to Windows-based security identifiers and vice versa, allowing your users to come closer to a single sign-on experience even in a heterogeneous environment. In addition, you have access to the Server for NIS service that can store your Unix user and group information directly within Active Directory. Plus, it helps you migrate from NIS to Active Directory if you wish.

From a systems administrator's perspective, probably one of the most interesting components of Services for Unix is the inclusion of the Interix environment. This feature offers administrators a fully functional Unix subsystem running directly within Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003. By including the Interix subsystem, Services for Unix gives your administrators access to utilities like awk, sed and ps that, previously, were only supported on Unix systems. Interix also provides Windows support for Perl and shell scripting. This makes it a possible to use the strength and flexibility of Unix administration scripts on both Unix- and Windows-based systems.

Laura E. Hunter (CISSP, MCSE: Security, MCDBA, Microsoft MVP) is a senior IT specialist with the University of Pennsylvania, where she provides network planning, implementation and troubleshooting services for business units and schools within the university. Hunter is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Microsoft "Most Valued Professional" award in the area of Windows Server-Networking. She is the author of the Active Directory Field Guide (APress Publishing). You can contact her at

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