First Look at OS/2 Warp Server for e-business

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 11/04/98

As many of you know Aurora is now in the latter beta testing phase. However there is still a lot of confusion surrounding Aurora, or as it is now officially called, "OS/2 Warp Server," the latest member of the Warp family. This is partially the result of mixed signals sent out by IBM officials themselves. In order to quiet customers fears, some IBM representatives have played down the new features in Aurora, calling it a minor upgrade; others have called it a major upgrade; still others have actually called it a new product. Whatever it is called it will apparently have a lot of familiar elements, such as the Warp 4 GUI interface, and a lot of new features. Calling it a "new product" is probably not much of an exaggeration. In this feature I want to gather together the major Web documents on OS/2 Warp Server and summarize the major points of each.

The Dawn of the Next OS/2 Warp Server by IBM.

This is an extensive IBM "white paper" that details the new features in Aurora. Here are just a few of these goodies:
  1. Journaled File System
    (This is one I can't wait to get my hands on!)
    • Supports restoration of a filesystem in seconds!
    • Supports partition and file  sizes up to 2 terabytes (=2,000 gigabytes)! This effectively removes the need for partitions, unless we wish to use them for better organization.
  2. Personally Safe n Sound (PSnS)
    A backup and restore feature that supports automatic file backup to a wide range of storage devices, helps ensure against disk drive malfunction, and offers fast recovery of deleted files. PSnS includes:
    • REXX and C APIs and a new command line interface to permit access to PSnS functions through the command line, user programs, and the GUI interface.
    • Support for partitioned, removable devices such as JAZZ and ZIP devices.
    • Dual-device backup set to optimize backup to type of backup device.
  3. Network File System (NFS)
    Permits a disk drive to be mounted anywhere on the network (e.g. in any department) and be made available to the client.
  4. Logical Volume Manager (LVM)
    (This is another one I can't wait to get my hands on!)
    Permits the creation of (logical) drives that span multiple physical drives. Presumably files will also be able to span multiple drives. Includes the concept of "sticky" device lettering that will not be disturbed by mounting or dismounting devices or deleting partitions. (Imagine being able to reconfigure your disk system--as I would like to now--without having to rebuild your Desktop and parameter files!)
  5. Supports Windows 95 and Windows NT clients.
  6. Contains level of TCPIP/MPTS whose performance and capacity exceeds TCPIP 4.1. (Note: exceeds 4.1, not just 4.0!)
  7. Includes Java 1.1.6, or whatever the current Java level is when OS/2 Warp Server is released.
  8. Includes Netscape Communicator.
It should be clear why calling OS/2 Warp Server a new product is not much of an exaggeration! It is truly a powerhouse, light years ahead of Windows NT!

Aurora - The next OS/2 Warp Server: File System Services Technical White Paper by IBM

This document provides additional details about Aurora's Journaled File System (JFS). This is some of the additional information provided:
  1. JFS is not new; it has been proven on the AIX (an IBM version of UNIX) mainframe systems.
  2. It uses database techniques to supplement (or replace) the ancient partition table/directory schemes currently employed.
  3. A continuous log of transactions is maintained; disk partition recovery is accomplished in seconds by replaying the log.
  4. FAT and HPFS are both supported as well as JFS. At present it's not possible to boot from a JFS system,
    IBM recommends booting from an HPFS partition to support Java's long filenames.
  5. The maximum number of files and directories in a JFS partition is over 4 billion!
  6. JFS supports modifying partition sizes and defragmentation on the fly. (Could this be one reason PowerQuest effectively dropped OS/2 support in Partition Magic 4.0? Aurora has much of Partition Magic's functionality built-in!)

The Aurora FAQ by Martin Alfredsson

This document attempts to answer many of the questions asked about Aurora based on published IBM documents, his own communications with IBM representatives, and other sources.
  1. Aurora is being targeted for Large Enterprise customers currently running some version of OS/2; IBM will welcome small businesses finding Aurora appropriate for them.
  2. "Support for old applications is VERY important for IBM, let me quote: 'Legacy support is and remains a fundamental element of our server strategy sustaining our commitment to our customers.' "
  3. Aurora will have built-in SMP (Simultaneous Multiprocessor Support) support for up to 64 processors.
  4. An Aurora Client Pak will be released with Aurora. (See below.)
  5. Rumoured features. The document also identifies a number of other features which may or may not be part of the GA version of Aurora.


Don't expect all these goodies to come cheap! IBM has targeted OS/2 Warp Server at the Large Enterprise market, and these businesses have deep pockets compared to the average home or SOHO user. IBM has said nothing about the new Server's price, but I expect it will be several hundred dollars, or even over a thousand dollars. That is only my guess, but I think it is an eminently reasonable one. One fact that might give us a clue is that the price of WorkSpace On Demand is $999; another is that the current Warp Server starts at $729. Aurora is unlikely to cost less!

Win32 Included?

In an interview with Newsbyte on 17 September 1998, IBM senior OS/2 official Jeff Smith stated that Windows 95 and Windows NT support would be included in WorkSpace On Demand 2.0, just as Win-OS2 support is included in Warp. It's not clear whether this level of support is included in Aurora as well.

New OS/2 Warp Client?

If you have kept in touch with the OS/2 scene at all, you know this a very hot topic on a lot of web sites (including this one). IBM has not publicly said they will release a new client; apparently the fact that Warp 4 is not Y2K compatible is causing problems for IBM with current customers. For this and other reasons rumours persist that IBM will release a new Warp client, probably shortly after Aurora is released. These are so far the only glimmers of hope from IBM itself:
  1. Aurora Client-Pak
    • This is a new product to be released at the same time or shortly after Aurora itself, and will run on top of Warp 4 with the latest fixpak.
    • Unfortunately, IBM has said virtually nothing else about this product, leaving us to speculate.
  2. Austin OS/2 Product Team
    This group of IBM'ers would like to release a client version of Aurora along with the server product. They are collecting information from Indelible Blue on the number of people interested and how much we would be willing/able to pay. If released Software Choice subscribers would receive the upgrade free. (Thinking about subscribing to Software Choice anyway?). The product would be:
    • "Aurora" base OS features (SMP, JFS, LVM, etc.) with server components pulled out (The only way they'll be able to do this is if they ship exactly the same base as Aurora)
    • Warp 4 user interface (unchanged)
    • performance improvements
    • latest device drivers client communications features no voice, no bonus pak
    If you are at all interested a new/upgraded client version of Warp then please go to the Indelible Blue page and vote with your virtual pocket book. I'll reiterate what IB says: be realistic in your price expectations; list the most you would be willing to pay, not what you would like to pay. Re-reading the feature lists above should convince you of the value of what you would be getting. I also agree with IB's assessment that the $100 price we have been hoping for under the Warp 5 campaign is unrealistic without completely gutting Aurora. Once again, the feature list should show why that is true.
Next week I'll present the results of the survey and make some observations about the direction of this site. Stay tuned!

For further reading:

Jeff Smith's Visit to Stockholm. Senior OS/2 boss discusses the future of OS/2, extending its life indefinitely. Article originally appeared OS/2 News and Rumors.

Warp X Web site maintained by Martin Alfredsson chock full of news (and rumours) on the future of OS/2 and Aurora in particular.

OS/2 Warp Server (Aurora) Home Page. IBM's prinicpal Aurora site.

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