App Consolidation Served

Microsoft's Application Center 2000 allows management of multiple servers from a single point

A quarter later than it was expected to be delivered, Microsoft Corp. announced last week general availability of its Application Center 2000 product.

Heralded by the company as one of the keystones for its .Net strategy, Application Center 2000 promises greater scalability and centralized management. The server product, which requires Windows 2000, manages applications across a Web cluster and allows management of multiple servers from a single point.

Data Return Corp. started working with Application Center 2000 before the beta was released last summer. The managed hosting service provider, which counts Microsoft among its investors, is using it for customer deployments and its own internal servers.

"The ability to replicate content across the [servers] has been really, really favorable," said Troy Garrison, a group program manager for the Dallas company. "Now, we can manage our Web farms from a single point. In the past, we had to manually manage content and manually register COM [Component Object Model] objects."

Having that process automated makes it faster and removes much of the risk of errors, Garrison said, adding that the general release has several improvements over the beta version, including having one central control point.

Hosting company Digex Inc. also is using Application Center 2000, internally and, so far, for one customer.

"We can manage a cluster of servers as one server. We can also add to or scale a cluster very easily," said Product Manager Doris Bestland, in Laurel, Md., adding that the product eliminates a lot of manual work. "With Application Center you can replicate data very easily, and the data is synchronized."

Early users said they hope future versions will include more control of replication, enhanced user interface for the programming object model, a rollback feature and additional support for hardware load balancers.

Application Center 2000 was slated for release by the end of last year, but Microsoft officials said the timing was delayed because some beta testers could not test the product due to end-of-the-year software freezes.

"Application Center is really a milestone for Microsoft in getting to the whole .Net vision," said Bob Pulliam, technical product manager for Application Center 2000, in Redmond, Wash. "One of the key aspects for Web services is that those services be scalable and available."

Application Center 2000 can be used for Web-based applications today and Web services in the future, Pulliam said. He added that, because the .Net framework is not finished, Microsoft will ensure Application Center 2000s compatibility with .Net through a service pack or other mechanism.

Application Center 2000 can distribute content and new applications across all servers, including not just files but also configuration and security settings. The capability to monitor the servers as a group or individually allows for automated responses to certain actions or events. It also features increased availability and fault tolerance. Pricing is $2,999 per processor.