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Microsoft Moves Windows Server to the Center - 21 Sep 2005

Microsoft Moves Windows Server to the Center

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1. Commentary
- Microsoft Moves Windows Server to the Center

2. Hot Off the Press
- Opera Frees Its Browser, Targets Firefox

3. Networking Perspectives
- Setting up Load-Balanced OWA Servers with Front-End SSL Accelerators

4. Peer to Peer
- Featured Blog: Your Inbox Is Open To The World

5. New and Improved
- Extend Windows Firewall


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==== 1. Commentary: Microsoft Moves Windows Server to the Center ====
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

This might be old news, but there's been such a deluge of topics here at Windows IT Pro UPDATE that I've not yet gotten around to explaining an upcoming Windows Server bundle that will likely be of interest to a large percentage of this newsletter's readership. I guess we should all have such problems.

You might recall that Microsoft announced a Windows Server 2003-based product bundle in July called Windows Server System for Medium Businesses (see my commentary "Microsoft Makes its First Mid-market Move" at the URL below). But the software giant casually forgot to mention that the bundle--which combines Windows 2003 Standard Edition with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition (which is limited to 10 servers), and 50 CALs for both Windows Server and Exchange for a discounted price--is just a stopgap measure.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious. Although Windows Server System for Medium Businesses offers midsized businesses the right products at the right price and a set of prescriptive guidance about deploying and migrating to the products, it offers none of the management niceties found in, say, Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS). Wouldn't it be nice if Microsoft offered a real "Windows Medium Business Server" product that included all those products, along with an integrated installation, multiserver support, and integrated management tools?

Consider your prayers answered. Although the company won't make it available until after Longhorn Server in early 2007, Microsoft is indeed working on such a product bundle. Code-named Centro (Italian for Center), this product bundle will include the standard editions of Longhorn Server (which includes Windows Deployment Services, the successor to Windows Server Update Services--WSUS), Exchange Server 12, the next version of ISA Server (as well as other security technologies), and several key technologies that are currently being developed as part of Microsoft's System Center family of products (Microsoft is still being vague about these products). Because they're the full, standard editions of these products, Centro will integrate nicely into existing infrastructures and will grow with your company.

Speaking of which, Centro is aimed solely at midsized businesses, which Microsoft describes as companies with 50 to 500 managed PCs and a limited number of IT support staff. Thus, Centro neatly fills a glaring gap between Windows SBS and the Windows Server products aimed at enterprises (you know, those companies that are bursting with IT staff).

It's too early to render a final verdict here, but let's face it: We've all looked jealously at the integrated installation and management tools in SBS and wished we could have them in more mainstream Windows Server products. Apparently, Microsoft was listening.

Virtualization, Windows Server, and You
A few years ago, Microsoft purchased the machine virtualization technologies of Connectix, makers of Virtual PC, so that it could add virtualization products and services to its stable of enterprise products. To date, the technologies have showed up in all the expected places. Microsoft essentially slapped its name on the next version of Connectix's client-based Virtual PC product (dropping Linux support in the process) and released the long-awaited server version, named Virtual Server 2005. Compared with competing products from market leader VMware, Microsoft's virtual machine (VM) products are limited and even expensive. For example, Virtual Server 2005 is almost purely targeted at machine consolidation scenarios. Surely, the company has bigger plans than that.

It turns out the company does. Although Virtual Server will continue as a standalone product--Microsoft is even releasing a single-VM-at-a-time version for developers called Virtual Server Express--the company is also busy baking its virtualization technologies directly into Windows Server. Although the first fruits of this labor won't appear in the initial version of Longhorn Server, due in 2007, Microsoft tells me the technology could be added via a service pack before Longhorn Server R2. First, the company plans to add its VM hypervisor--essentially, the brains behind virtualization--to Windows Server, but not as a component of the OS. Instead, the hypervisor will interact directly with new Intel Virtualization Technology-based servers and AMD Pacifica-based servers to provide virtualization features directly on the hardware.

Consider what this news means. Today, VMs run in isolated software environments that leach off the resources of the host OS. These VMs require massive amounts of RAM and other resources, but rarely reach the levels of performance one would expect from a physical server. (This might explain Microsoft's predilection for Windows NT 4.0-based consolidations.) In this new scheme, VMs would run side-by-side on the same server hardware, and the hypervisor would schedule which VMs get which physical resources. Management will occur outside of any of the OSs, letting administrators deploy, migrate, move, and resize VMs.

What's exciting is that Microsoft will use its virtual hard disk (VHD) VM format for these new hardware-based VMs. Therefore, an investment in the VHD format today will pay off with higher performing VMs in the future, and Microsoft expects enterprises to literally stockpile libraries of VHD-based VMs, ready for deployment whenever and wherever they're needed. The possibilities are endless. When I asked whether Microsoft was considering making VHD its stock deployment format of the future, I got a smile and a nod. It's no wonder they're openly licensing the VHD format now.

To be fair, VMware is also seeking to make its VM format ubiquitous, and the latest beta version of its VMware Workstation tool even supports VHD format, letting you import Microsoft's VMs and get the additional features that VMware's products now offer. And let's not forget Xen, the Linux-based virtualization technology that's gaining traction in the non-Microsoft world. However things shake out, it's clear that virtualization is becoming core OS functionality, regardless of platform. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Microsoft Makes its First Mid-market Move


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

Opera Frees Its Browser, Targets Firefox
Opera Software announced today that the company is making its award-winning Opera Web browser available for free to all users. Previously, Opera offered two versions of the product: a paid version and one that was free but included in-place advertisements. Today's rerelease of Opera 8.5 signals an end to that strategy. Now the company will offer only one free version with no ads. Read more about Opera at the following URL:

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

Setting up Load-Balanced OWA Servers with Front-End SSL Accelerators
One way to increase the security of Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA) is to use a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to encrypt traffic during an OWA session. If you have a significant number of users (100 or more) simultaneously accessing OWA, they can place a significant CPU load on the OWA server. The problem is that each logical OWA connection requires the server to manage multiple SSL sessions. To reduce the load on the OWA servers and increase the number of users that an OWA server can handle, you can use an SSL accelerator card or an SSL appliance. Alan Sugano give you the details at the following URL:

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==== Instant Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll:
The voting has closed in Windows IT Pro's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Does your company use VoIP technology?" Here are the results from the 153 votes:
- 53% Yes
- 16% No, but we plan to in the near future
- 27% No, we have no plans to do so
- 3% I don't know

(Deviations from 100 percent are due to rounding error.)

New Instant Poll:
The next Instant Poll question is, "Can you access enterprise applications from your mobile computing device?" Go to the Windows IT Pro home page and submit your vote for a) Yes or b) No.

==== 4. Peer to Peer ====

Featured Blog: Your Inbox Is Open To The World

Check out the Mark Edwards' latest post to the Security Matters blog.

Tip: What is Aero Glass?
by John Savill,

Find out here:

==== Announcements ====
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==== 5. New and Improved ====
by Adam Carheden, [email protected]

Extend Windows Firewall
Sphinx Software recently released XP Firewall Control 1.5. XP Firewall Control extends the capabilities of the host-based firewall included in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). XP Firewall Control lets you have different firewall settings for different local applications and zones (groups of remote hosts). This increases security by letting you open your firewall only to trusted local applications and remote hosts. XP Firewall Control 1.5 works with the XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1 firewalls on both 32-bit and 64-bit OSs, including XP x64, Windows 2003 x64, Windows 2003 ai64 (Itanium), and the beta version of Windows Vista (Longhorn) x64.

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