We’ve looked at Facet Corp’s FacetWin several times before in First Looks. The latest release, FacetWin 3, adds a bunch of new features to this already excellent package and makes a worthy upgrade for existing users. For those unfamiliar with the software, FacetWin 3 is designed to provide Windows to UNIX integration by offering Windows clients for most user services demanded from a UNIX server. There are transparent file transfers, allowing files to be easily moved back and forth from Windows to UNIX and vice versa. There’s a print facility that lets UNIX print on your Windows printer, and Windows print on a UNIX printer, all with no extra effort on the user’s part. There’s a terminal emulation system for character terminals (no X client). There’s a POP3 e-mail server that can integrate Outlook and other popular Windows e-mail clients with a UNIX server. And there’s resource sharing, making UNIX and Windows resources all look the same under Windows Explorer. FacetWin has been doing all these tricks for a while, so for FacetWin 3, FacetCorp added several new tricks.
The most important of the new FacetWin 3 additions is probably the Internet Modem Server ability. The Internet Modem Server (IMS hereafter) allows a bunch of Windows clients to share a bank of modems attached to a UNIX server. The modems are fully accessible as a gateway out to the Internet, for World Wide Web browsing, e-mail, FTP, and any other service the Windows users could want. IMS is an important addition for many companies because it provides two important benefits. First, it eliminates the need to install modems and telephone lines in each Windows client. Second, it allows for better use of existing modem banks used by remote access servers, dial-in or dial-out modems, and fax devices already connected to the UNIX server. The installation and configuration of IMS on each Windows client is simple, taking only a minute or two, and after configuring the Windows system, a user on that system isn’t aware of the connection to the UNIX modem bank, simply accessing the Internet as if it was attached to the Windows machine. Obviously, throughput is going to depend on the number of modems and number of users.
The second feature we were impressed with in FacetWin 3 is a PC Backup and Restore capability. The Backup and Restore utility lets an Windows user, or the UNIX system administrator, back up and restore Windows filesystem files on UNIX backup devices. All the usual bells and whistles are included, such as incremental backups, compression, and multiple volume backups. Even better, a backup can be to multiple devices with mixed media, and a backup can be set for several Windows machines in one operation. The procedure for backing up is simplified through an Explorer-like interface.
We tested FacetWin 3 on a network with both UnixWare and OpenServer servers, as well as HP-UX 10.2 and Solaris 2.7 servers. We installed FacetWin 3 on twelve Windows clients. All the basic FacetWin features such as file transfers and terminal emulation are similar to the previous releases, so we concentrated on the two important new additions to FacetWin 3. We configured the Internet Modem Server package by allocating a bank of four 56kbps modems all connected to an ISP using MPPP (Multilink Point-to-Point Protocol) through the UnixWare server. All twelve Windows clients could easily access the modem bank transparently, just as they would a dedicated gateway connection to the Internet. Although traffic took a hit when all twelve clients were downloading Web sites, adding more modems, or faster access methods would easily solve this. The test IMS with faster modem lines, we used two Comtrol ISDN routers and configured eight ISDN connections (1.024Mbps). Again, IMS easily used the modem bank, controlled by the OpenServer system, and all twelve Windows clients behaved perfectly.
To test the PC Backup and Restore system, we used a Sony AIT drive on the OpenServer system and an HP DLT drive on the UnixWare server, and individually performed backups of the clients to each drive. The backups and restores worked perfectly, as expected. As an administrator, we then configured the twelve Windows clients to back up their entire filesystems in turn, every night to one of the two drives. Every morning we had a tape with a complete network backup, which is an ideal situation for administrators.
With Windows 2000 coming soon, we tested FacetWin 3 under that operating system. The entire suite of tools worked perfectly, just as they do under Windows 98, with the exception of Internet Modem Server. Since this feature doesn’t work under Windows NT 4.0 either, there must be some conflict that Facet is still trying to resolve. All the other features of FacetWin 3, both the new additions to version 3 and the basic UNIX-Windows connectivity tools, all functioned without pause.
Configuring a UNIX application under Windows is easy with the Control Panel applet installed with FacetWin 3. Using the applet, we configured most applications in less than a minute. Since the disk requirements for FacetWin 3 are benign (about 5MB) there’s no reason not to deploy on all Windows machines on a network. There’s no conflicts with NFS, either, because FacetWin 3 uses CFIP (Common Internet File System). CFIP and SMB (Server Message Block) provide the same functionality as NFS but are native to Windows and don’t require servers.
Is FacetWin 3 worth the upgrade? If you need modem sharing or Windows to UNIX backups, definitely spend the money. The package would be worth its cost for these two features alone, but getting the rest of the FacetWin toolset thrown in is a bonus.
FacetWin 3 $95
4031 W. Plano Pkwy
Summary: Two excellent new features show you can teach an old dog new tricks. FacetWin 3 continues to be the best Windows to UNIX compatibility tool on the market.