DCE: The Open Group Distributed Computing Environment

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The Open Group's Distributed Computing Environment

The Open Group's Distributed Computing Environment (DCE) is rich software technology that enables the development of distributed applications across heterogeneous systems. Those applications, in turn, allow companies to take advantage of the far-reaching benefits of open, distributed computing.

Today countless users worldwide confidently rely on DCE to help them make the most of their computing investments. As technology rapidly evolves, DCE is keeping apace with changes, proving to be a "future proof" computing investment.

The distributed computing solution for every industry

DCE supports sophisticated distributed applications in a wide variety of industries -- including automotive, financial services, petrochemicals, telecommunications, insurance, pharmaceuticals, engineering, manufacturing, retail/wholesale, transportation, and utilities, as well as government and academia. Tools built on DCE, such as transaction monitors and network management tools, enable effective and efficient balancing of network resources as well as support user and account management

"At MCI Consumer Markets, DCE systems are utilized by 8500 employees in 18 locations. Users can take advantage of DCE's set of common core services, and developers can rapidly build applications for those users. DCE was one of the enabling technologies that allowed us to overcome the chaos of the initial client-server roll-outs."

Warren Bernard, chief architect
MCI Consumer Markets
MCI Communications

DCE is a suite of technologies available from The Open Group, a consortium of computer users and vendors who work together to advance open systems technology. The organization integrates "best of breed" technologies into offerings that are adopted throughout the industry. Through The Open Group, several industry segments work cooperatively to direct the evolution of DCE.

Today DCE is available from major systems vendors, including Bull S.A., Cray Research, Data General, Digital Equipment Corporation, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, NEC, Olivetti, Siemens Nixdorf, Sony, Silicon Graphics, Stratus, and Tandem Computers. In fact, DCE is provided by more vendors and has been ported to more platforms than any other distributed computing product suite on the market.

DCE provides powerful technology that plays a pivotal role in three of today's most critical areas of computing:

"DCE is the logical choice for us, looking at the problem we had to solve -- communicating between diverse hardware and systems distributed all over the world. We needed security that was accepted in the industry, could be audited, provided encryption and authentication, and was available on the various platforms we use. DCE allowed us to address our security needs without limiting our choice of platforms. Now that DCE is available on Windows NT, we use it as a mainstream development platform -- and we didn't have to change our software to make the move. We want to have a fully DCE secure Web server and browser combination, to create a virtual private network that you can run over public networks."

Tom Provost, Manager
Communications Systems & Services

DCE is an integral part of networks around the world. It is instrumental in systems that explore the solar system, secure the World Wide Web, drive stock markets, probe the depths of the earth for oil deposits, and provide critical telecommunications services.

Adopters of DCE technology include

"Heterogeneous distributing computing is a fact of life at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and always will be. JPL is reshaping itself for the future, exploiting information systems and information technology to tie together the diverse elements of the lab into a closely knit framework. DCE plays an essential role in our enterprise architecture. We've acquired 5000 client licenses for DCE on a broad variety of platforms, and our intent is to put DCE software on virtually every computer at JPL. The open specifications that come out of The Open Group are very important to us as procurement instruments. They allow us the confidence that the vendors are on a level playing field."

Steven Jenkins, Deputy Manager and Chief Engineer
Enterprise Information System Project
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

DCE plays a pivotal role in three critical areas of computing:

A technical summary

DCE is a suite of integrated software services that is part of a computing system's infrastructure. End users purchase DCE with computer systems and distributed applications use.

An enabling platform for building solutions, the DCE technology was designed to operate independently of the operating system and networking technology that applications use. As a result, it enables interaction between clients and servers in just about any type of environment an organization may have in place.

The Open Group provides DCE source code, which vendors incorporate in their products, a specification for use by developers, and a test suite used to validate conformance to the DCE standard. Many vendors bundle basic DCE functions with their operating system offerings.


The technology comprises software services that reside on top of the operating system, middleware that employs lower-level operating system and network resources. The services allow organizations to distribute processing and data across the enterprise. Today DCE is the only suite of integrated services available from a vendor-neutral source that enables organizations to develop, use, and maintain distributed applications across heterogeneous networks.

The DCE services include:

For application developers, DCE offers scalability, flexibility of choice among platforms, and the opportunity to work within a new development paradigm. The environment it provides allows key software services to be integrated into distributed applications while insulating developers from the complexities of the underlying network and its transport mechanisms. DCE enables the types of networking benefits users want: single log-in, access to legacy data, reliability, file replication and availability.

"DCE is part of the architecture that we'll be using in each and every one of our command and control systems worldwide. We must have the capability to interoperate across all the systems, whether they are new ones to be procured in the future or legacy systems that are part of the suite of command and control systems. The Army may choose to buy systems from one vendor, the Navy or Air Force from another; and within a service, there may be systems provided by multiple vendors. DCE provides us with the capacity to interoperate across heterogeneous platforms and to operate with platforms that vary in their capacity."

Major General William Campbell
Program Executive Officer, Command, Control, and Communications Systems
U.S. Army

Latest enhancements

DCE version 1.2.2 enhances DCE's widely-acclaimed security services and provides improvements in manageability, fault-tolerance, performance, and scalability for the DCE Distributed File System and other services. For a detailed look at the latest software release, see the DCE 1.2.2 data sheet.


The diversity of distributed computing environments makes their security very complex. Multiple platforms, supplied by different vendors, complicate the process of implementing various security policies. And in the absence of standards, proprietary security applications cannot interoperate. The result is uneven, unreliable security measures.

DCE is on e of the most rigorous secure distributed environment commercially available. It incorporates Kerberos technology, a highly trusted, well-managed and well-understood means of protecting network computing.

"The rise of the Internet and associated technologies such as TCP/IP, browsers, and the WWW opens up a new window of opportunity for DCE. From a technical standpoint, DCE could meet the growing need for enhancements to security, access control, and resource administration facilities in current Internet solutions."

IDC Computer Networking Architectures bulletin
October 1996


Another area critical to end users is security for the Internet as well as for intranet environments. Without security, the Internet will not live up to the expectations the industry has set for it. With the growing use of public and private networks, however, comes the threat of security breaches, some malicious, some unintentional. Either type can be very costly.

The Open Group's Research Institute's Secure Enterprise Web technology takes advantage of DCE security and naming services. Specifically, it allows off-the-shelf browsers and servers to interact with DCE naming and security services to develop a multiple-protocol server. The server allows DCE interactions to be federated with Secure-HTTP interactions to provide DCE-based Web management tools.

The initial DCE World Wide Web project was sponsored by Dascom, Digital Equipment Corporation, Gradient Technologies, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Its objective is to harness the power of DCE naming and security to the World Wide Web within an enterprise in a compatible manner,

The goal is for DCE to extend, not to replace, existing Web-based technologies. For example, DCE authorization capabilities could be supplied to a corporate Intranet Web environment, limiting access to personnel files and salary data to authorized personnel.

Distributed Objects

DCE is a galvanizing force behind the movement toward distributed object technology because the use of DCE technology leads to interoperability of different object strategies. DCE provides a foundation for distributed, object-oriented computing without precluding use of other approaches such as CORBA. In fact, DCE meets the requirements for use in the CORBA specificaton as an Environmental Specific Inter Orb Protocol, and unlike the General Inter Orb Protocol, is available, tested, and used today.

DCE is a key component in the plans of many vendors implementing object-oriented technologies. For example, IBM has agreed to support DCE security, time, and naming services in SOM/DSOM. Hewlett-Packard is shipping DCE++, an object-oriented tool that provides a C++ IDL compiler and class libraries for DCE. Microsoft uses DCE as the basis for communication within ActiveX. Digital Equipment Corporation uses DCE security in ObjectBroker, its CORBA. Most major vendors have expressed their intent to use DCE RPC as an environment-specific protocol within the CORBA specification to provide interoperability.

The latest release of DCE provides further integration with environments such as Novell NetWare and Sun ONC. It offers such additional features as a C++ IDL compiler, which allows programmers to use C++ to write DCE programs.

New DCE Pricing Highlights

DCE source code is now available free for Limited Distribution Source licensees. To further promote adoption of the technology, the royalty for DCE client systems has been eliminated.

1996 The Open Group.
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