Understanding and Using Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration Components (part 1)

2/6/2011 9:38:55 AM
Microsoft has a long history of not “playing well” with other technologies. With Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft provides native support for Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration, a series of technologies that was previously included in a product line called Windows Services for UNIX (SFU). With Windows Server 2008 R2, each of the components of the old SFU product is included as integrated services in the Windows Server 2008 R2 OS.

For many years, UNIX and Windows systems were viewed as separate, incompatible environments that were physically, technically, and ideologically different. Over the years, however, organizations found that supporting two completely separate topologies within their environments was inefficient and expensive; a great deal of redundant work was also required to maintain multiple sets of user accounts, passwords, environments, and so on.

Slowly, the means to interoperate between these environments was developed. At first, most of the interoperability tools were written to join UNIX with Windows, as evidenced by Samba, a method for Linux/UNIX platforms to be able to access Windows file shares. Microsoft’s tools always seemed a step behind those available elsewhere. With Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration tools, Microsoft leapfrogs traditional solutions, like Samba, and becomes a leader for cross-platform integration. Password synchronization, the capability to run UNIX scripts on Windows, joint security credentials, and the like were presented as viable options and can now be considered as part of a migration to or interoperability scenario with Windows Server 2008 R2.

The Development of Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration Components

Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration has made large strides in its development since the original attempts Microsoft made in this area. Originally released as a package of products called Services for UNIX (SFU), it received initial skepticism. Since then, the line of technologies has developed into a formidable integration and migration utility that allows for a great deal of interenvironmental flexibility. The first versions of the software, 1.x and 2.x, were limited in many ways, however. Subsequent updates to the software vastly improved its capabilities and further integrated it with the core operating system.

A watershed advancement in the development of Services for UNIX was the introduction of the 3.0 version of the software. This version enhanced support for UNIX through the addition or enhancement of nearly all components. Included was the Interix product, as well as an extension to the POSIX infrastructure of Windows to support UNIX scripting and applications natively on a Windows server.

Later, version 3.5 of Services for UNIX was released, which included several functionality improvements over Windows Server for UNIX 3.0. The following components and improvements were made in the 3.5 release:

  • Greater support for Active Directory Directory Services (AD DS) authentication

  • Improved utilities for international language support

  • Threaded application support in Interix (separated into a separate application in Windows Server 2008 R2 named the Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications)

  • Support for the Volume Shadow Copy Service of Windows Server 2008 R2

Finally, we come to the Windows Server 2008 version of Services for UNIX, which was broken into several components that became embedded into the operating system. No longer were the components a part of a separate package. Instead, the components were built in to the various server roles on the operating system for the first time.

Here is the structure of major improvements for the Windows Server 2008 UNIX Integration:

  • x64-bit Windows Server OS support

  • AD lookup capabilities through the inclusion of Group ID (GID) and User ID (UID) fields in the AD schema

  • Enhanced UNIX support with multiple versions supported, including Solaris v9, Red Hat Linux v9, IBM AIX version 5L 5.2, and Hewlett Packard HP-UX version 11i

  • Ability for the Telnet Server component to accept both Windows and UNIX clients

  • Extended Network Information Service (NIS) interoperability, including allowing a Windows Server 2008 R2 system to act as a NIS master in a mixed environment

  • Removal of the User Mapping component and transfer of the functionality directly into the AD DS schema

  • NFS server functionality expanded to Mac OS X and higher clients

  • Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA), which allows POSIX-compliant UNIX application to be run on Windows Server 2008 R2, including many common UNIX tools and scripts

  • Easier porting of native UNIX and Linux scripts to the SUA environment

Finally, some minor changes were added to the UNIX support in this latest release, Windows Server 2008 R2. These include the following, all related to the Services for NFS component:

  • Netgroup support provides the ability to create and manage networkwide named groups of hosts.

  • The Unmapped UNIX User Access functionality allows NFS data to be stored on Windows servers without first creating UNIX to Windows account mapping.

  • RPCSEC_GSS support provides for native support of this RPC security feature. Windows Server 2008 R2 does not provide support for the RPCSEC_GSS privacy security service, however.

  • WMI Management support provides extendibility of management to NFS servers.

  • Kerberos Authentication (Krb5 and Krb5i) on Shares improves standards for secured information access.

Understanding the UNIX Interoperability Components in Windows Server 2008 R2

Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration is composed of several key components, each of which provides a specific integration task with different UNIX environments. Any or all of these components can be used as part of Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration as the installation of the suite can be customized, depending on an organization’s needs. The major components of Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration are as follows:

  • Services for NFS (includes Server for NFS and Client for NFS)

  • Telnet Server (supports Windows and UNIX clients)

  • Identity Management for UNIX (includes the Server for Network Information Services and Password Synchronization components)

  • Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA)

Each component can be installed as part of a server role. For example, the Services for NFS component is installed as part of the File Services role in Windows Server 2008 R2. Each component is described in more detail in the following sections.

Prerequisites for Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration

Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX services interoperate with various flavors of UNIX, but were tested and specifically written for use with the following UNIX versions:

  • Sun Solaris 7.x, 8.x, 9.x, or 10

  • Red Hat Linux 8.0 and later

  • Hewlett-Packard HP-UX 11i

  • IBM AIX 5L 5.2

  • Apple Macintosh OS X


Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration is not limited to these versions of Sun Solaris, Red Hat Linux, HP-UX, IBM AIX, and Apple OS X. It actually performs quite well in various other similar versions and implementations of UNIX, Linux, and Mac OS X.

Installing Services for Network File System (NFS)

The installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 UNIX Integration for Windows Server 2008 R2 is as simple as adding specific server roles to a server using the Add Roles Wizard. The individual components can be installed as part of different roles added to the server. For example, to add the Services for NFS role, simply add the File Services role to a server via the following process:

Open Server Manager (Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools, Server Manager).

Click on the Roles node in the tasks pane, and then click the Add Roles link.

On the Add Roles Wizard welcome page, click Next to continue.

From the list of roles to install, check the box for File Services, and click Next to continue.

On the Introduction to File Services page, click Next to continue.

On the Select Role Services page, shown in Figure 1, keep the File Server box checked and check the box for Services for Network File System. Click Next to continue.

Figure 1. Installing Services for NFS.

On the Confirmation page, review the settings and click the Install button.

Click Close when the wizard completes.


If the File Services role has already been installed, you can add the Services for Network File System by right-clicking the File Services role and selecting Add Role Services.

Services for NFS streamlines the sharing of information between UNIX and Windows Server 2008 R2, allowing users from both environments to seamlessly access data from each separate environment, without the need for specialized client software. Utilizing the Services for NFS and NFS Client allows for this level of functionality and provides for a more integrated environment.

Using and Administering Services for NFS

The Services for NFS component acts as a UNIX-standard NFS server by providing disk space from any Windows-based computer on a network to NFS clients, translating their NFS requests to Windows SMB-based requests. No additional client software is necessary, and the Windows Server 2008 R2 server acts and functions like a normal NFS-based UNIX server for these clients. This is a great way to bring a standardized share format to a heterogeneous network as UNIX and Apple clients might have difficulties using standard Windows file protocols such as Common Internet File System (CIFS).

After installing Services for NFS, several tasks need to be performed before accepting UNIX clients to the Windows file shares. These tasks include the following, covered in more detail in the following sections of this book:

  • Configure AD DS lookup for UNIX GID and UID

  • Configure the Server for NFS and Client for NFS components

  • Create NFS shared network resources

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