Following its formative years as an increasingly reliable operating system for lower-end computing, Microsoft's Windows NT has matured into a stable and very cost-effective choice for a growing number of business-critical applications. With Microsoft adding high-availability features and options, Windows NT is rapidly becoming a logical mid- to upper-range addition to existing IS networks. Informix was among the first to recognize the growing importance of Windows NT to the database community. The company introduced its first database server for Windows NT more than a year ago, and Informix now offers a comprehensive set of NT-optimized servers supported by a growing selection of specialized tools, utilities and support.

A classic case for an organization adopting Informix database servers for Windows NT is that this solution supports more convenient and cost-efficient application development. A senior developer heading out on a week-long business trip, for example, can now load Informix on a Windows NT notebook and complete an entire application while on the road. Informix for Windows NT has the same look and feel of Informix running on a UNIX machine, but with the added convenience and portability of a notebook deployment.

The NT environment provides easy GUI access to DB development tools such as Visual Café, Visual Basic and others, while at the same time allowing the developer to use spreadsheets, word processors and other convenient office automation tools. Our traveling developer can build a complete client/server application then come home and deploy a full-featured solution on a UNIX box.

So you get all the bells and whistles of the Informix UNIX server version, but with the convenience and lower price of a Windows NT solution. Other unique Informix qualities also support optimized database performance in the Windows NT environment.

Most mid-sized to larger organizations are already heterogenous environments, often with mainframes running MVS, multiple UNIX boxes and an assortment of machines running Windows 95 or NT. All these systems are talking to each other, and there is a growing need for database applications which can provide seamless performance in this environment.

Informix database servers, through the XA interface, support heterogeneous operability with a wide range of database sources, including Oracle and SQL Server, file systems such as IMS or IBM databases such as DB2. Informix's standard database architecture (DSA) allows you to migrate a database from a low-end work group environment to mid-range SMP systems or even high-end clustered SMP and MPP systems.

In one real-world instance, a hotel chain was implementing a property management software system and had originally planned to utilize SQL Server on Windows NT. But because they were already running Informix on UNIX machines at the home office--and wanted a seamless solution that could communicate on a more direct and native basis--they opted to port to Informix on Windows NT.

As Windows NT continues to work its way into the mainstream and as organizations increasingly commit business-critical applications to this operating system, the demand will increase for database servers optimized for the NT world.

As discussed in previous columns, the Informix Dynamic Scalable Architecture (DSA) provides the unique ability to perform many database operations in parallel, a quality which allows for the addition of larger numbers of concurrent users in an NT-based enterprise. Informix database servers also deliver a comprehensive set of features--such as enterprise replication, data and log mirroring and cluster failover--that are designed to ensure maximum system availability.

Informix has also pioneered the use of an intuitive, GUI-based point-and- click environment that masks many of the more complex database management tasks. This user interface fits well with Windows NT and vastly simplifies the job of installing, configuring and monitoring database servers. Informix allows users to intelligently manage virtually any data type, from video and sound to spatial, time-series, imaging, text and Web-driven data types.

One big reason that Informix fits naturally into the Microsoft NT world is that Informix takes full advantage of Windows NT's multithreaded architecture. Compared to NT threads, Informix session threads are lighter and can deliver superior throughput--and when coupled with NT threading capabilities can reduce the system's total thread-scheduling overhead.

Both Informix and Windows NT provide their own unique levels of security protection, and to this Informix has added a pair of very powerful new security features specifically for the NT database family. The Informix-Admin Group allows authorized system administrators to perform system management tasks quickly and easily. Informix for NT also provides separation of administrative roles into four distinct areas of responsibility, which assures that access privileges to these management functions are well protected.

Informix takes advantage of NT's asynchronous I/O capabilities to optimize disk I/O performance and augment overall database efficiency. Informix database servers also utilize Windows NT APIs to perform network I/Os at the operating system level to improve local and remote communication. Windows NT is rapidly moving into the mainstream of mid- to large-sized corporate enterprise applications.

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