Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE--Microsoft Preps Virtual Server 2005 for Late 2004 Release--June 15, 2004

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1. Commentary: Microsoft Preps Virtual Server 2005 for Late 2004 Release

2. Hot Off the Press
- Second Windows XP SP2 Release Candidate Is Imminent

3. Networking Perspectives
- Can't Add New Users to Exchange 2003

4. Resources
- Tip: I used Group Policy to disable the Windows XP registry-editing tools, but now the silent-mode switch no longer works on my XP system. Does a fix exist for this problem?

5. New and Improved
- Patch Your Systems
- Manage Local GPOs in Heterogeneous Environments
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: Microsoft Preps Virtual Server 2005 for Late 2004 Release ====
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

On Monday, Microsoft issued a public release candidate (RC) version of Virtual Server 2005, a preview version of the company's server-based machine virtualization solution. Going head to head with a similar server-side solution from VMware, Virtual Server 2005 can't hit the market quickly enough, in my opinion. With a multitude of soon-to-be-unsupported Windows NT 4.0 servers still running in the wild, Virtual Server 2005 plugs a huge hole in Microsoft's product migration strategy. More important, for enterprises and midsized businesses still plugging away with NT 4.0, Virtual Server 2005 is worth examining.

In a recent virtual meeting using Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2003, Eric Berg, group product manager for Virtual Server, and Ward Ralston, Virtual Server product manager, briefed various people at Windows & .NET Magazine about the product, and we received the RC code this week, so I'll be hammering on it over the coming weeks. But what I've found out so far looks interesting. Although I don't know whether Microsoft has a VMware beater on its hands, Virtual Server is clearly competitive, and that's not too shabby for a version 1.0 product.

For those of you unfamiliar with the acquisition, Virtual Server was the reason Microsoft purchased most of Connectix's assets last year; the company also got Virtual PC, a client-side solution for both Windows PCs and Apple Computer's Macintoshes, as part of the deal. When Microsoft approached Connectix in early 2003, Virtual Server was still very rough. "It was in an alpha state at the time," Berg said, but it clearly had promise, with interesting COM interfaces that could one day provide unique scripting capabilities. Over the ensuing months, Microsoft brought the Connectix team inhouse, redesigned Virtual Server, and put the product through a security review. The team shipped the first Virtual Server beta last November, shipped RC1 just this week, and the product is on track for a late 2004 release, Berg noted.

Because it's a version 1.0 product, Microsoft is concentrating on some core scenarios, which is an interesting area in which to compare the product with VMware, whose VMware GSX Server, VMware ESX Server, and VMware VirtualCenter products pioneered the server-side machine virtualization market. Virtual Server 2005 targets software testing and development, legacy application migration, and server consolidation--arguably the three most important areas for machine virtualization. I get the feeling the emphasis is largely on NT 4.0 migration, however. "We're targeting the highest-volume scenarios \[only\]," Berg told us. "VMware approaches things different because they're a virtual machine company; it's the only product they have... . Our approach is more nuanced and based on technologies we think fit the right kind of problem."

To this end, Virtual Server is managed from a Virtual Server Administration Web site, similar to what you see with Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) or Windows Rights Management Services (RMS). Microsoft will also integrate Virtual Server with its other management tools, such as Active Directory (AD), Microsoft Operations Management (MOM) 2005 (via a new management-pack add-on), Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Automated Deployment Services (ADS--through a Virtual Server migration kit), providing administrators with access to Virtual Server management from the tools they're likely using in their own environments. Virtual Server's stock management tools look excellent, even though the Web-based environment might initially seem limiting.

However, Virtual Server lacks a few niceties found in the VMware offerings. For example, the product isn't compatible with USB, a must-have feature in these days of pervasive USB keychain devices. And Virtual Server won't support 64-bit platforms for some time and might never support 64-bit virtual machines (VMs) on 32-bit systems, as VMware will. Also, Virtual Server runs only on Windows Server 2003 (and not Windows 2000), although you can run it on Windows XP for development purposes. And finally, Virtual Server doesn't directly support non-Microsoft OSs, such as Linux, largely because Microsoft sees the product as an NT 4.0 migration solution.

Architecturally, Virtual Server seems similar to VMware's offerings, with up to 3.6GB of memory per VM and the ability to dedicate one CPU to each VM. Virtual Server Standard Edition will support 4-way servers; the enterprise edition will scale up to 32-way servers with up to 64GB of RAM. The system appears to run fine on fairly low-end hardware; the demo system we saw was a 1GHz Pentium III with 1GB of RAM, and it was running three VMs fairly effortlessly. I'll test the product on my servers, however, before delivering a performance verdict.

Indeed, I'll need some time with Virtual Server and some future discussions with both Microsoft and VMware before I can declare either side victorious. But it looks like Microsoft's integrated management approach will win some converts from the Microsoft-oriented shops, while VMware's extra features--and better support for non-Microsoft platforms, including Linux--will win VMware other converts. This type of competition will result in better products from both companies. If you're interested in testing Virtual Server RC1, check out the Microsoft Web site. It's a free download.

Trojan Update

I still haven't resolved my Trojan horse problems, but I'm off to New York again, so I'll have to leave that machine behind for a few days. You might have seen news reports about a series of oddly familiar new Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) vulnerabilities that sound suspiciously similar to my experiences with the Trojan I have on my laptop, so I'll be following those developments to see whether any future Microsoft fix applies to my problem as well (see for more information about the IE vulnerabilities).

And again, thanks for all the help: I've stopped counting the number of helpful responses I've received, but it numbers in the several hundreds and has yet to abate. Thanks so much: I'll try all the suggestions and present a conclusion when possible. I've had a few offers to image the machine and send the images for testing, so I might ultimately take that route. Frankly, I'm itching to just nuke that machine. It's overdue.

Also, based on feedback from several readers, I'm going to reinstall XP on my main desktop PC, take it off the domain, and try to live with a non-Administrator account on a nonmanaged box. I've been told by a number of people that this process is a lot less painful than it used to be, and I've frankly not tried it in a while, so I'll give it a shot. As with the Trojan dilemma, I'll have more information about that experiment as soon as possible. Thanks!


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==== 2. Hot Off the Press ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]com

Second Windows XP SP2 Release Candidate Is Imminent
Expect the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) Release Candidate 2 (RC2) this week, unless yet another security-oriented emergency sets back the oft-delayed release. Sources tell me that Microsoft is already deploying XP SP2 RC2 internally and that the company gave beta testers the code late last week. However, a recent spate of "extremely critical" flaws in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0--which also affect the supposedly ultra-secure IE version in XP SP2--might ultimately push back XP SP2 RC2 yet again. If that happens, the delay would be the third major postponement of this product. To read the rest of the story, visit the following URL:

==== 3. Networking Perspectives ====
by Alan Sugano, [email protected]

Can't Add New Users to Exchange 2003
My company is in the middle of converting a client from Windows NT and Exchange Server 5.5 to Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003. Because we're migrating from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003, we had to install the Active Directory Connector (ADC) to get Exchange 2003 and Exchange 5.5 to talk to each other. All was going well: We had the Exchange 2003 servers in-place, and we had moved most of the mailboxes from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003. Then, we received a call from the client saying it couldn't add a new user to the network. This problem seemed odd because the migration was going smoothly up to this point. Existing users were migrated from the old NT domain into one master Active Directory (AD) domain, and they were able to access their mail, which had been migrated from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003.
As you know, adding a new user into AD and creating a mailbox isn't rocket science, and the client has competent people working in its IT department. We decided to go to the client and investigate. To find out how we solved the problem, read the entire story at the following URL:

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Results of Previous Poll: Security-Related Administrative Duties
The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "What's currently the main focus of your security-related administrative duties?" Here are the results from the 210 votes:
- 53% Tightening general security
- 12% Defending against network attacks
- 5% Defending against Web site attacks
- 23% Filtering junk email
- 7% Controlling employee surfing habits

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==== 4. Resources ====
by John Savill,

Tip: I used Group Policy to disable the Windows XP registry-editing tools, but now the silent-mode switch no longer works on my XP system. Does a fix exist for this problem?

On Windows 2000 and Windows NT Server 4.0 systems, when registry-editing tools are disabled users can still use the registry editor with the /s (silent-mode) switch to run .reg files. In XP, the /s switch no longer works when registry-editing tools are disabled. For information about a supported feature that lets you use the /s switch on an XP system even when registry-editing tools are disabled, see the Microsoft article "'Prevent Access to Registry Editing Tools' policy changes in Windows XP" ( ).

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==== 5. New and Improved ====
by Angie Brew, [email protected]

Patch Your Systems
New Boundary Technologies released Prism Patch Manager 6.2, patch-management software. The product's Central Metadatabase is updated with new patches within 48 hours of the patches' release and tells you when you can deploy new patches. Prism Patch Manager features a management console to view computers' compliance status and centrally deploy patches. You can deploy patches in one step and install patches with no end-user intervention. The software supports remote users, and its optional agents automatically patch disconnected systems, such as laptops, when they connect to the network. For pricing, contact New Boundary Technologies at 612-379-3805 or 800-747-4487.

Manage Local GPOs in Heterogeneous Environments
FullArmor released FAZAM GPAnywhere!, a console that leverages Active Directory (AD) and lets you centrally manage local Group Policy Objects (GPOs) in heterogeneous environments. FAZAM GPAnywhere! features Policy Templates that make creating local GPOs easier. The reporting function lets administrators view the local GPO settings on remote computers. The Executable Policies feature provides GPO settings in one executable file that you can schedule to update the policy even when Executable Policies aren't connected to the network maintaining compliance. Pricing for FAZAM GPAnywhere! is $5.50 per seat and $1200 per administrative console. Contact FullArmor at 617-457-8100 or [email protected]

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