Microsofts .Net Server Line Pushed to 2002

VP Cliff Reeves updates the progress of the Windows .Net Server line, which will now debut in the first half of next year, following a year-end release of Beta 3.

The third beta of Microsoft Corp.s upcoming Windows .Net Server line will be released before the end of the year, according to Cliff Reeves, vice president of the Windows .Net Server Solutions Group, the time frame the company had hoped to ship the final version of the products.

Reeves, who gave the keynote address at the Microsoft Exchange Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday morning, also told eWEEK in an interview after the address that the final version of the server products will not ship until the first half of next year.

The second beta was sent to testers in early April.

The Windows .Net Server family will consist of Windows .Net Server, an entry-level file and print server; Windows .Net Advanced Server, a midlevel symmetric multiprocessing offering; and Windows .Net Datacenter server, positioned as Microsofts mainframe killer.

A fourth "Web blade" edition for serving up HTML pages will power smaller servers that sit at the front end of Web applications, he said. "We got a lot of demand from OEMs and service providers to have an offering that was purely preconfigured to be a Web blade front end which would be deployed in large volume and priced appropriately," Reeves said. "So we will turn that into a SKU [stock-keeping unit], and thats nothing more than the formalization of the SKU as something were already shipping through OEMs."

While the release of the servers has taken a little longer than Microsoft expected, the company has recognized that the server and client are now based on the same code, so anything it learned on the client side (Windows XP) in terms of the functions needed to be added affects the server in terms of testing and the possible diversion of resources away from the server side. "In general, if the server follows the client – as is the case here – it is likely to be more susceptible to delays," he said.

Lessons from XP

The server team, Reeves added, learned a lot from the development process around Windows XP, which was "a significant release in terms of its user interface features. A lot of the stuff is now automated – its a very slick operating system, and we learned a lot in the process, but theres no crisis on the server side in terms of release timing."

While many clients are eagerly awaiting the release of the new server line and the improvements they hope the line will bring, Reeves said that they "really shouldnt be. I mean Windows 2000 is itself pretty damn good. We naturally want to move them over when the new servers are released, but theres no urgency to do that," he said.

Microsoft received a lot of feedback from customers and through the current beta process around Active Directory about the need for a lot more prescriptive guidance from Microsoft on how to deploy it.

"Users also wanted improvements in the ability to make changes after Active Directory was set up, which we have done, and making the task simpler for things like secure wireless communications. Windows Update has also been improved," Reeves said.

With regard to the variation in estimates of sales numbers for Active Directory, Reeves said that unless the client had deployed Exchange, which drove fairly rapid deployment of Active Directory, when good-sized enterprises considered Active Directory deployment this was not just a technological issue but also an organizational one.

"You set up your domains and your hierarchies really based on corporate structures, which is something done with more thought and at a different pace than you can deploy servers," he said. "So, yes, people who wanted to get onto Windows 2000 have put things on different courses. Our Windows servers now represent upward of 80 percent of our shipping servers, as there are still some tail-end servers going in."

All of Microsofts customers deploying an enterprise directory are at various stages, but all plan to deploy Active Directory at some point. Microsoft recognized after Windows 2000 that it would force a different pace of deployment unless it was driven by a large user base going into something like Exchange. "Weve had to recognize that," Reeves said.