Windows Server: The Next-Next-Generation Plans

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-07

Windows Server: The Next-Next-Generation Plans

ORLANDO, Fla.—Although Microsoft is still working on the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn and due to ship in 2007, the company already has a team working on Longhorn Release 2 and is looking at the potential feature set for Blackcomb, the version that follows Longhorn.

"We have already begun planning for Longhorn R2 as well as looking at possible features for Blackcomb, the version of Windows beyond Longhorn," Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server division at Microsoft Corp., said Tuesday in a strategic briefing titled "Significantly Reducing the Cost of IT over the Next Decade" at the Tech Ed conference here.

In a forward-looking presentation, Muglia talked in detail about technologies to be seen in Windows Server 2003 Release 2, due later this year, and in Longhorn Server and beyond.

These technologies range from per-application firewalls to RDC (remote differential compression), a file type-independent technology that replicates changes to files over the WAN rather than replicating the entire file.

Muglia spent a lot of time telling the several hundred people in his audience about Microsofts vision for working with edge information, about how networks evolve, and about where policy—not topology—will define the boundary of the Net.

"That is a major focus of what we are doing with integrating the network, where corporate policy determines where the Intranet ends and the Internet begins," he said, adding that this is a long-term vision for Microsoft that is still in its early stages.

A number of components are necessary for this, from federated identity to authentication and authorization, he said, adding that the password system used today will be replaced by two-factor authentication and biometrics.

Another important factor is universal addressability, which will take the longest to be realized and will require point-to-point and peer-to peer recognition, Muglia said, while the boundary has to be redefined.

IP Security policies will allow that, he said, noting that about 70 percent of the information and traffic flowing through Microsofts Intranet is IPSec-protected.

Click here to read about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer beating the drum for IT workers.

End users need a different type of experience that allows them to access information from anywhere in a fairly transparent manner, he said. "The key to this is thinking about per-application-based firewalls, where small tubes of information are created along with a filter to make sure that only the protocol and associated port are open and protected," Muglia said.

Underlying all of this will be a robust authentication system and environment, such as Microsofts Active Directory, he said, adding that about 75 percent of enterprises use it as their primary directory.

Microsoft also is investing heavily in management through its DSI (Dynamic Systems Initiative) and is building models into Longhorn that understand the "health" of a system.

Muglia said the company is making investments in scripting and in the user interface to further simplify management of Windows systems. "We take that focus very seriously, across different segments and audiences," he said.

Microsoft also will bring changes in Longhorn that will further drive down costs in distributed systems and that environment, he said.

Windows Server Release 2, due in the last quarter of the year, will bring a number of improvements for companies with distributed branches, he said, bringing Ravi Gopal, a group product manager in the Windows Server division, to the stage to give a demonstration.

In the demo, Gopal showed a new technology in R2, remote differential compression, which is file type-independent and replicates changes to files over the WAN rather than replicating the entire file.

Next Page: Reducing complexity across applications.

Reducing Complexity

Turning to the .Net distributed application platform, Muglia said it was designed to reduce complexity across applications, particularly as the world has moved from stand-alone to connected systems.

"To pull together Web services, things like service orientation, federated identity, integrated workflow and federated data have all been included in Windows Server R2," Muglia said.

"The technology that will deliver these distributed Web services and improve the productivity of developers in Longhorn is known as Indigo."

Read more here about Indigo, which Microsoft calls "a natural extension to the .Net Framework."

Microsoft also is looking to "revolutionize" things on the storage front, but these changes will take time, Muglia said. He said in about six years, laptops will have a terabyte of built-in storage, but that change will facilitate having a huge amount of corporate and personal data on the machine—and that data will need to be completely protected.

Microsoft is working on intelligent distributed storage. One way to do this is through cached client storage—being done in Longhorn on the client—through which all files are simply caches of the locally stored data.

Users always will be able to access the local cache, which will be prepopulated and will allow differential replication and background sync, Muglia said, adding that Microsoft was continuing to work on its WinFS (Windows File System) in this regard.

With regards to management, Muglia said people are the primary cost in maintaining systems for users, so Microsofts goal is to help drive down those costs.

"We believe that, by using model-based management, we can drive down those costs … as well as create consistent policies across an organization and provide a dynamic environment," he said.

Key technologies for achieving this are the Systems Definition Model, which can be created by Visual Studio 2005. Longhorn also will consume these models. "Microsoft is in a very unique position to drive this forward through products like Visual Studio, Longhorn and Microsoft Operations Manager [MOM]."

Muglia also named virtualization as a vital management technology going forward, and said this will be built into Windows and will be available shortly after Longhorn ships.

While Microsofts Virtual Server product has already been released, an update due later this year will include a management pack, a licensed virtual hard disk, support for Linux and other operating systems, and support for 64-bit computing . On the virtualization front, Longhorn will have a built-in hypervisor, Muglia said.

Microsoft is turning its attention toward simplifying administration and focusing on about 20 different workloads, while at the same time being committed to providing the best solution for each of those workloads. "Our success depends on your success," he said.

"A great competition" is going on between Windows and Linux on the x86 platform, Muglia said, with Microsoft working hard to do a better job than Linux in every area and with every workload, he said.

Muglia closed by saying that the Microsoft promise is unique, and that the company is able to meet individual requirements through its customer focus. "But we are a software company, and we will drive costs down through this. We also make things mainstream and available to everyone in their environment, and we also focus on integration and a consistent user environment," he said.

But Microsoft is aware that it cannot do this alone, Muglia said. "We realize that all of this can only be done through a broad ecosystem. The next five to 10 years are exciting, and the promise is phenomenal for the applications that you can produce."

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