IBM will add network management features and multiprocessing support to the next version of its OS/2 Warp operating system.
The four-way symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) support would boost OS/2's speed by 200% to 300% compared with OS/2 2.11, IBM executives said at the recent Comdex/Spring '96.
The standard SMP support will let OS/2 Warp users parcel out processing among two to four servers. Users will also be able to buy optional support for four more processors for maximum SMP support for up to eight processors. This equals the support from rival Microsoft's Windows NT Server platform.
The improvements -- for both the server and workstation versions of OS/2 Warp -- are due in the second half, the IBM executives say. Pricing hasn't been set yet.
OS/2 user Ray Pratts, senior technical analyst at Variable Annuity Life Insurance in Houston, says the new tools are "vital. Anything that simplifies my management tasks and saves me time is a real boon."
Pratts says SMP support for OS/2 Warp Server is also crucial. "SMP will let us attach more clients to each server. That makes for more efficient and quicker network management, which will cut my workload immensely" because it will eliminate the need to manage so many individual clients, Pratts says.
Analysts say the features are part of an ongoing IBM initiative to jump-start momentum for OS/2 in the face of soaring demand for Windows NT Server and Windows NT Workstation software.
IBM shipped 6 million copies of OS/2 Warp last year and will ship roughly 8 million copies of OS/2 Warp this year, a spokesman says.
But Windows 95 and NT are the only operating systems that will gain market share this year, according to Dataquest, a market research firm in San Jose, California. Microsoft is expected to ship 8 million copies of Windows NT Workstation this year, and nearly 63 million copies of Win 95 will ship, Dataquest says.
Nevertheless, IBM continues to add enhancements to OS/2 Warp. One new network management utility is the Assistance Center. Through its graphical user interface, the Assistance Center helps walk even nontechnical users through tasks such as configuring and installing printers and applications, says Jeff Howard, IBM's OS/2 worldwide brand manager.
Bob Sakakeeny, an analyst at Aberdeen Group in Boston, says the Assistance Center is a good idea. Centralising key functions such as remote technical support and the WarpGuide assistant in a single utility eliminates many of the "hunting expeditions" users engage in when they search the desktop for support utilities, Sakakeeny says.
Some analysts, however, say IBM will be hard-pressed to keep pace with Windows NT's momentum.
"Warp Server's new and improved technology is great," says Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "But it won't change the market realities: NT is on a roll."