Microsoft and NEC teamed up for several projects to promote NEC hardware and middleware applications and promote Microsoft's BackOffice. Through this alliance, Microsoft will support the development of NEC's Express Server for Enterprise, which will run Windows NT Server and support large mission-critical systems. NEC and Microsoft will develop 8-way and 16-way symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) and large clustered systems with more than 64 nodes. In addition, NEC and Microsoft will define the requirements for supporting 64-bit technologies in large servers, and NEC will work to seamlessly integrate NT and BackOffice into its mainframe environments.
NEC and Microsoft will also collaborate on hardware and software for the product code-named Express Network Server, which will address the needs of small to midsized businesses. The new server will offer a turnkey hardware and software solution, with everything preinstalled and preconfigured. It will use emerging technologies such as Intelligent Input/Output (I2O). Express Network Server is designed for the Internet and intranet environments, and it will be optimized to Web-enable small businesses with ready-to-run solutions. The companies slate the release for products in the third quarter of 1998.
Running with the Pack
Microsoft will release Microsoft Cluster Server (MCS), formerly code-named Wolfpack, before the end of the year. It will be a feature of Windows NT Server, Enterprise Edition (NTS/E) 4.0. Microsoft has posted an updated frequently asked questions (FAQ) document about MCS on its Web site for public review. The FAQ addresses numerous questions in an attempt to clear the air about several aspects of MCS. The FAQ document contains sections on clustering basics, software licensing, hardware issues, application support, and deployment and troubleshooting concerns. You can find the MCS FAQ on Microsoft's NT Server Web site, at http://www. micro-soft.com/ ntserver/info/clusterfaq.htm.
Microsoft says that MCS will be available only as a built-in feature of NTS/E 4.0, and it will be offered in English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. According to the FAQ, MCS will initially support only clusters consisting of two servers, but Microsoft plans to expand that capability to a large number of servers during what it's calling Phase 2 of MCS. Phase 2 will support large clusters and highly scalable applications, and Microsoft expects it to enter beta testing some time in 1998. (For the implications of NTS/E and MCS, see Mark Smith, "NT Server, Enterprise Edition Is Wolfpackaging," October 1997.)
Although Microsoft and other vendors tested MCS clusters with more than two servers, Microsoft says it must extend and thoroughly test the algorithms and features in the current MCS on large clusters before anyone can use a multinode MCS cluster for production work. In addition, Microsoft must extend the cluster hardware validation procedures to accommodate the additional requirements of multinode clusters.
Microsoft has two key reasons for limiting the initial release of MCS to two-server clusters. According to its surveys, customers say that 80 percent of the demand for clusters is to improve the availability of mission-critical data and applications, and two-server clusters satisfy this requirement. The other reason cited is the need for a globally accessible and programmable naming service for clients to use to locate cluster resources--and Active Directory in NT 5.0 will provide this service.
MCS will support Tandem Computers' ServerNet communications technology, which can be the interconnecting private network between the servers in a cluster. Microsoft will package Tandem's software drivers for ServerNet with the MCS in NTS/E.
Backing Up Windows 98
Backing up workstations is a tough chore, but Seagate Technology announced some relief: Windows 98 will ship with Seagate's backup software with new features such as Emergency Recovery. It lets a Win98 user rebuild the operating system (OS) and restore the latest full backup directly from the storage device without taking the usual path of reloading the OS and all the drivers and then restoring data from tape. The new Seagate backup software will support any mapped disk device, including Jaz, Zip, LS120, optical, Syquest, and the multifunction PowerDrive.
Network security has been one of the fastest growing segments of the Windows NT market for quite some time. Amazingly, we have heard little news about Microsoft tackling this lucrative market. In fact, Microsoft once limited its security products to crude packet filtering and to Proxy Server 1.0.
But if we look at the grand scheme of things, we see that Microsoft is sneaking into the security market both quietly and systematically. The first step was crude packet filtering built into the TCP/IP stack, and its Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Next came Proxy Server 1.0, which was quickly followed by the beta release of Proxy Server 2.0, which is a much-improved version. The second version incorporates Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS), introducing the ability to filter potentially malicious traffic at the packet level. Microsoft calls this package a firewall.
BaseCamp is Microsoft's next addition to its security products. Microsoft designed BaseCamp to enhance Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and expand NT's networking services. A client/server platform, BaseCamp, allows secure network connections through untrusted networks such as the Internet. This product uses a client Connection Manager and a server-based Internet Authentication Server to create a product capable of building VPNs, which transmit all data in encrypted form. BaseCamp's Internet Authentication Server will include Connection Point Services. This feature lets an administrator manage and distribute customer phone books or local dialup telephone numbers, which can result in a more streamlined connection routine.
Microsoft slates BaseCamp's release by the end of this year. It will support PPTP, the Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS), and the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP). RADIUS and CHAP are the primary means of authenticating incoming connections.
Faster Than a Speeding Pentium II
The Pentium II processor hasn't been on the market very long, and already Intel announced it will make the processor run faster--but not by using more megahertz. Using a new chipset Intel dubbed the 440LX AGPset, Pentium II systems could realize a doubling in speed among processors, memory, graphics and video boards, and other peripheral devices. Current Pentium II systems cannot directly take advantage of the new chipset, and vendors will have to optimize applications to take advantage of AGP (similar to the way applications must be optimized to use MMX technology). To realize the performance gains of the AGPset, current Pentium II systems will require a new AGP-enabled motherboard. And although Windows NT doesn't currently support AGP, NT 5.0 will support it.
Serve Your Site, Enterprise Style
In the July 1997 issue of Windows NT Magazine, a news item on Microsoft's Commercial Internet System (MCIS 1.0, formerly code-named Normandy) lacked information about packaging and distribution. In fact, the only thing Microsoft told us about MCIS was what it contained, where to download beta copies, and that its tentative price rage was about $18,500. Now Microsoft offers us some clarification about MCIS.
MCIS is not available off the shelf or through a Value Added Reseller (VAR) but through Microsoft's Internet Customer Unit as a custom contract, so the cost to each customer will vary. Additionally, we thought that MCIS 2.0 would enter beta soon, but we now know that MCIS 2.0 does not exist. Microsoft has not finalized or announced plans regarding components, pricing, or a release date.
Another product mentioned in the July 1997 issue, Site Server, Enterprise Edition, is now shipping but without BaseCamp, a product included in the original beta. BaseCamp, a connectivity enhancement package for Windows NT, is in beta testing at this time and will probably ship by the end of the year.
Microsoft plans to enhance and upgrade Site Server. These upgrades are in the works under the code name Olympus. Its primary purpose is to make Site Server a more integrated Web-site platform. It will be available as a prerelease by the end of the year.
Microsoft will improve integration between the components of Site Server by extending the scope and reach of the analysis tools Site Analyst and Usage Analyst. Current versions of these two tools analyze routine Web traffic. The upgraded versions will go further, offering details about transactions and usage trends to let the user track in detail what's being sold and which products interest a site's users. Additionally, Microsoft will ensure that the Site and Usage Analyst tools will support Exchange Server and SQL Server.
Olympus will include Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0, which will ship by the end of the year. IIS 4.0 includes Microsoft's Transaction Server and its new Messaging Server. Microsoft says Site Server will become a part of BackOffice 4.0, also expected by the end of the year.
Shifting Gears with Security
Cylink licensed its security technology for inclusion in the upcoming releases of Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 and Windows NT 5.0. Cylink bases its security technology, already included in the IE 4.0 beta, on Diffie-Hellman and the Digital Signature Standard (DSS) public-key cryptography for public key-based security systems. Cylink implements the technology as a Crypto Service Provider for Microsoft's CryptoAPI architecture.
According to Microsoft, the Diffie-Hellman and DSS technologies strengthen security solutions for IE 4.0 and NT 5.0 products and add to reliability. These technologies provide an additional means of performing secure transactions over the Internet and private networks.
Excuse Me, Say That Again?
It appears that IBM and Microsoft are heating up the market for voice-enabled software. IBM has released a version of its ViaVoice software designed to make creating documents a breeze by simply talking to your word processor. And as of last November, Microsoft licensed technology from Lernout & Hauspie (L&H) that offers automatic speech recognition and text-to-speech software for inclusion in future Microsoft products.
In addition, Microsoft pumped $45 million into L&H. Microsoft intends to develop Windows so that it will recognize and respond to verbal commands, but the company has not announced a time frame for this technology. Microsoft invested $53 million in the Flanders Language Valley Fund, which supports companies that develop speech-based technologies and applications.
Compaq Easing NT Integration
Compaq has a new initiative to ease the integration of its Windows NT-based Professional Workstations into legacy UNIX and Macintosh environments. Along with other vendors, Compaq is providing tested interoperability solutions that let users access, share, and port files and data with UNIX and Mac systems. Companies working with Compaq on this initiative are DataFocus, Equilibrium, Hummingbird, Intergraph, Mortice Kern Systems (MKS), and Softway Systems.
Each independent software vendor (ISV) will handle key aspects of the integration. They will test and certify Compaq's systems for use with the software. According to Compaq, benefits include accessing UNIX-based X-Windows applications, sharing files using NFS, and achieving a single programming interface across all three platforms with cross-platform API libraries and tools for developers.
Tally Up the Hardware
Dell Computer has added Tally Systems to its Alliance of Systems Management Leaders. Through this alliance, Dell and its partners exchange information, test products, and ensure joint compatibility to help customers achieve a manageable computing environment. Tally Systems will work with Dell to establish and create standards for systems management strategies.
Tally brings to the alliance its Cenergy Desktop Management Interface (DMI)-compliant asset management software, which Dell will preload on its computers at the customer's request. Cenergy combines CentaMeter (software license metering and management) and NetCensus (automatic inventory for PCs) with WinINSTALL (a program for electronic software distribution). Tally Systems will test its Cenergy installations on each Dell machine as it rolls off the assembly line to assure customers that everything works properly.
Asset management is becoming integral to information technology strategies. International Data Corporation (IDC) has found that companies practicing asset management for desktop hardware lowered their annual costs by nearly 20 percent on average over those that didn't follow such practices.
New Connectors First on Intel, then Alpha
Exchange 5.5 contains new connectors as the result of Microsoft's purchase of LinkAge Software in May 1997. The new connectors link Exchange to Lotus Notes, IBM PROFS, and systems that use SNADS such as Verimation MEMO. The connectors initially will be available only for the Intel platform because LinkAge wrote the code for Intel servers. According to Microsoft, time constraints prevented engineering robust Alpha versions of the connectors. The LinkAge heritage makes the news unsurprising, but disappointing for Alpha supporters. Administrators who are engaged in large corporate deployments and who would like to use these connectors to bridge the gap to Notes and legacy IBM environments will especially miss a timely Alpha release.
Email address generators for new connectors are available for Alpha, so you can introduce a Lotus Notes, PROFS, or SNADS connector into an organization without affecting people whose mailboxes are on Alpha systems. In such situations, both Intel and Alpha servers will correctly generate the necessary email addresses that the different email systems use to send mail to Exchange users. The only limitation is that Alpha cannot run the actual connectors.
Time constraints also mean that the new connectors will be only in English. Support for other languagesFrench, German, and Japanesewill come with the Alpha code in a service pack soon after the release of Exchange 5.5. Expect the service pack some time in the first quarter of 1998.
At the Exchange Conference in San Diego, Microsoft restated a strong commitment to Alpha as a platform for Exchange. Digital Equipment and Microsoft engineers continue to cooperate closely to ensure that Exchange and the other BackOffice applications work on Alpha. So, despite the small hiccup over the availability of connectors, the Alpha platform clearly remains key to the Microsoft BackOffice strategy.