Picking Products to Improve Your Productivity

My favorites and more

Choosing the best Windows NT products from thousands is a daunting task. In this issue, our editors pick their favorite NT-related products to assist you in finding products that help you do your job.

My software picks are Citrix's WinFrame and MetaFrame. At the height of client-centered computing's popularity, Citrix had the vision to fuse the server-centric mainframe model with visually oriented client-centric computing. For some, Citrix brought back the mainframe's benefits: control, ease of deploying applications, security, and so on. For those who have known only PCs, Citrix introduced a radical new way of thinking about managing a computing environment.

In 1997, Microsoft licensed WinFrame for NT 3.51 and ported it to NT 4.0. Then, in June 1998, Microsoft released the product as Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition. Microsoft strategically used thin clients as a way to combat the threat of network computers (NCs). Now that NCs are no longer a threat, Microsoft can honestly explore a computing model that does not rely on a PC for every user.

MetaFrame starts where Terminal Server leaves off. MetaFrame adds support for non-Windows clients such as Macintosh, UNIX, and dozens of other devices that support Citrix's Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) protocol. In addition, MetaFrame provides administration features such as load balancing (which, for example, lets you create a server farm to handle thousands of users distributed across the planet), shadowing, and cost accounting.

Network Engines
My hardware pick is Network Engines' WebEngine. WebEngine is a clustered Web server in a 1.75" rack-mounted box. Each WebEngine contains a dual-Pentium II motherboard; an embedded version of NT Server 4.0; Internet Information Server (IIS); ClusterReplicator, a replication engine; ClusterBalance, a load-balancing application; ClusterStream, a 3.5GB cluster interconnect; and ClusterDirector, a sophisticated Web browser-based management application. You can connect 256 WebEngines into one cluster and manage them from one location.

To create a Web server, you simply turn on the first WebEngine and connect it to the Internet. Then, you simply connect additional WebEngines to the WebEngine cluster. Content replicates automatically. The additional WebEngines appear automatically on ClusterDirector's management console.

I chose WebEngine because it contains numerous innovative technologies in one small package. WebEngine is one of the first embedded NT products. Each WebEngine uses only a small and reliable subset of NT Server. The developers left out everything that wasn't essential. And ClusterStream is one of the fastest cluster interconnects I've run across. I like the fact that Network Engines built ClusterStream into the hardware, so every WebEngine is cluster-aware. I also like the fact that ClusterReplicator starts automatically, making it simple to administer.

Both MetaFrame and WebEngine include load balancing, letting you add more servers to support more users. Who cares if NT can't scale beyond four CPUs? Adding more rack-mounted servers is more economical and modular, and provides a level of fault tolerance that you can't get by adding more CPUs. Both products support failover, so if one server fails, the remaining servers pick up the workload. MetaFrame and WebEngine also let you administer the cluster as one system image, removing some of the complexity of dealing with multiple servers.

Solutions Shopper
Choosing the best NT-based solutions for your organization is a difficult task. To make your life easier, visit Windows NT Magazine's list of more than 3500 NT-based solutions at http://www.winntsolutions.com.

WinFrame and MetaFrame
Citrix * 800-437-7503
Web: http://www.citrix.com
Network Engines * 781-961-4400
Web: http://www.networkengines.com
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