Microsoft Branching Out to Remote Offices

Its Branch Office Infrastructure Solution walks enterprises through "designing, building, deploying and managing Windows-based technologies within a remote office infrastructure."

ORLANDO, Fla.—In an effort to get enterprises to use its solutions for branch offices, Microsoft Corp. has released the Branch Office Infrastructure Solution, a prescriptive architectural guidance based on the Windows Server System Reference Architecture.

"This is a set of guidance that walks organizations through how to best think about designing, building, deploying and managing Windows-based technologies within a remote office infrastructure," Ravi Gopal, product manager for Microsofts Branch Office, told eWEEK in an interview at the Tech Ed conference here.

But BOIS only addresses currently available technology, namely Windows Server 2003—not the upcoming Release 2—ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) 2004, MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) 2005, SMS (Systems Management Server) 2003, Virtual Server 2004 and other products. The guidance will be updated once Release 2 is released, he said.

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Microsoft is also working with a range of system integrators, like EDS and Avenade, to build a brand of branch competencies and practices based on BOIS, Gopal said.

Market research shows that some $25 billion was spent by enterprises in the United States alone on WAN (wide area networking) in 2003.

"This is a significant cost for customers, who want a solution that has local-like application performance as well as easy deployment and manageability. They want to have their cake and to eat it too," Gopal said.

Microsofts strategy is one of having a device that is optional, disposable, replaceable and easy to manage. It views the branch market in two broad segments. The first is focused on the storage workload, around file and print, basic networking, and some Web caching activities.

The other is a customer segment that spans multiple workloads, including management and virtualization for a line of business, Gopal said. As such, Microsoft has a two-pronged approach: For the storage workload focused segment it has an existing solution, the Windows Storage Server 2003 along with a Wide Area File Services solution from Tacit Networks that sits on top of Windows Storage Server.

"Going forward, we are working with OEM partners like HP, IBM, Tacit Networks and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. to come up with innovative form factors and appliances for this particular market segment and to address their specific needs," Gopal said.

For those customers who want a solution that spans multiple workloads, Microsoft released BOIS this week, he said.

Looking ahead, Gopal said that the Windows Server 2003 R2 has technologies that are valuable and important to the branch office. Release 2 will include technology called DFS (Distributed File System) Replication, within which is an algorithm called RDC (Remote Differentiation Compression) that is able to send only the sections of a file that have been changed over the wire, removing the need to replicate existing large files over the wire, he said.

Another technology, known as "Similarity," is able to detect whether a file you are about to replicate is similar in some way, shape or form to another that is already situated on the hub server. But one of the servers that Similarity is connecting with must be running Windows Server Enterprise Edition "as that is the way we plan to bring them to market. This is very similar to RDC, and you could say its RDC+," Gopal said.

"DNS is intelligent enough to determine what I did to the file, and it does not matter what Ive done to the file. It is also application-independent, so a Virtual Server virtual hard disk file, a CAD file or a Microsoft Outlook file can be manipulated and the changes replicated to the hub server. Thats what Similarity is about, and it will be available in the Windows Server 2003 R2 timeframe," Gopal said.

Microsoft on Tuesday also announced support for Background Intelligence Transfer Service, or BITS, caching, which will be available in the next release of the ISA server later this year.

That will allow customers to cache an update that had been downloaded and access that on a local branch office server rather than having to continuously access or replicate it over the WAN, he said.

This is an example of how other products, including Windows Server, are aligning their technology direction toward the needs of the branch customer, Gopal said.

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