Microsoft Outlines .Net Server Plans

Microsoft will include a fourth, pre-configured, out-of-the-box Web server when it ships its Windows .Net server family in the first half of next year, officials confirmed here at Comdex on Monday.

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft Corp. will include a fourth, pre-configured, out-of-the-box Web server when it ships its Windows .Net server family in the first half of next year, officials confirmed here at Comdex on Monday.

"We have seen a lot of interest from customers over the last year or two for single purpose systems that they dont have to configure but which also gives them the level of functionality they need," said Bob OBrien, group product manager for the Windows Server division, in an interview here Monday morning. "As such, we decided to include the Windows .Net Web server in the line-up."

And, as previously reported by eWeek, the third beta for the server family will be available to testers later this month. "We are almost ready to go and we are currently doing final checks before we start burning the CDs and getting them out," he said. "We are trying to get beta three into the mainstream and will be aggressively targeting application developers with this beta to get them to start pounding on it and give us comprehensive feedback."

Microsoft was also targeting a very large test group with this beta, which would be pushed out through the Microsoft developer network (MSDN) and target multiple hundreds of thousands of potential testers. "We also intend to have two release candidates before the code goes gold," he said.

Moving forward, the first release candidate would take place in the first quarter of 2002, followed by the second candidate and then the final code, which was currently expected to ship towards the end of the first half of 2002.

Beta testers would also see a far more powerful application development environment as Microsoft continued to advance its integrated development platform by adding native support for industry protocols like XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI. This environment simplified integration and interoperability and increased developer productivity and enterprise efficiency, he said.

"This, combined with integrated .Net Framework and other application services will enable developers to create powerful Web services and applications with fast time to market," OBrien said.

Naming the .Net Servers

Microsoft has also finalized the names of the various Windows .Net servers. The entry-level file and print server will be called Windows .Net Standard server; the Windows .Net Enterprise server, which tended to be the default infrastructure server customers deployed, will now have four-node clustering capabilities; while the Windows .Net Datacenter server will serve those enterprises requiring the highest level of scalability and reliability.

OBrien said Microsoft continued to see good adoption of its Datacenter server, the "jewel" of the line. The introduction of the 64-bit code base in May had peaked enterprise interest as customers would now get the highest reliability possible out of their Datacenter product and could start looking at doing applications that allowed them to exploit this power, he said.

Communicating and Collaborating

On the communication and collaboration front, improvements included real time communications support, the optimization of terminal services and remote access, as well as the ability to restore server-based files that had been deleted/changed by end users.

"Given all the attention security issues have been getting of late, this server family will be the first server product developed under the Secure Windows Initiative," OBrien said.

Customers had asked Microsoft to ship IIS default lockdown, which it was doing in IIS 6.0 – with the new server line. Customers will also see tighter security out of the box, new authentication technology would be supported and business data could be safely exchanged between systems and customers.

This latest server family also offered enhanced security without complicated configurations for mission critical applications as enhanced clustering support and performance for high-end applications, including new 64-bit support for large memory-intensive processing, he said.

On the scalability front, recent benchmark testing had shown improvements not only on the scale-out but also on the scale-up front. A TPC-C benchmark based on the Unisys ES7000 running Windows Datacenter Server Limited Edition and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition placed Microsoft 6th in the Top-Ten Non-Clustered performance list, and delivered the best price-performance in the group.

Dwight Krossa, a director for Microsofts emerging business product management group, told eWeek that Microsoft was also excited about the capabilities of the sever platform with the .Net Framework, ASP .Net and the Common Language Runtime.

Enterprise customers were also pleased with the improved functionality, including a utility known as "x-copy deploy". Once an application was written, the user could just copy it using drag and drop to install it and get it to run. "Theres no installation process or complicated install, you simply copy it and run it," he said.

Microsoft was committed to letting developers focus on using the language they were familiar with. "We dont force you to go to one language like Java or C, we support lots of languages. What we want is to give developers unlimited possibilities," Krossa said.

Microsoft was talking to customers about deploying Web services and other applications based on the beta code for the .Net Framework, Visual Studio and ASP .Net. "We are actually working with a couple of customers to deploy in limited releases," he added.

OBrien said Microsoft is not encouraging customers to think twice about their potential Windows 2000 server deployments because of the upcoming .Net server line.

"We are recommending that customers continue to deploy Windows 2000 servers and then start evaluating what aspects of the .Net servers were attractive or necessary for them," he said.