Microsoft Steps into the Light with Datacenter Server

Microsoft Corp.’s shroud over Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is lifting.

The company has said little about its new high-end version of its server operating system since announcing in late 1998 that it would create the version. Microsoft lifted the veil slightly at technical conferences such as TechEd and the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, but Microsoft is now being more forthcoming about the operating system on its Web site. Only a few news releases were available online up to about early May; now Microsoft has dedicated a specific page to the high-end offering:

The general details of the operating system have been widely reported: 32-processor support, four-node clustering, support for 64 GB of memory. A new white paper on the Microsoft Datacenter Server site allows IT managers to learn a little more about some of Microsoft’s deployment scenarios for the operating system and dig into some of the other new features, including System Area Networking and the Process Control tool.

The Microsoft white paper positions Datacenter Server as, "optimized for large data warehouses, econometric analysis, large-scale simulations in science and engineering, online transaction processing (OLTP), and server consolidation."

Microsoft identifies application service providers (ASPs), Internet start-ups, enterprise line-of-business solutions, and enterprise infrastructure as ideal network scenarios for the edition, which will only be sold preloaded by OEMs on certified hardware. That list of intended uses exploit optimizations for high-traffic network scenarios, according to Microsoft.

For dot-coms and ASPs -- fast growing markets that nearly every major technology company is targeting through its marketing -- Microsoft says the operating system is ideal for the scalability and reliability requirements.

Previously Microsoft positioned Windows 2000 Advanced Server as its main operating system for line-of-business applications. The new document stops short of detailing the types of line-of-business environments where Datacenter Server would be a better fit than Advanced Server.

In the enterprise infrastructure/data center scenario, however, the white paper provides examples of how the operating system will be helpful. Microsoft offers Datacenter as a means to consolidate servers onto a single large system to centralize IT staff and eliminate system management jobs. Through machine partitioning, via the Unisys ES7000 e-Action server, enterprises can host SQL Server and Exchange Server on the same box, according to Microsoft.

As another example of consolidation through Datacenter Server, Microsoft points to use of the Terminal Services capability in the operating system.

The document details some features of Datacenter Server new to Windows environments. One is Winsock Direct. Designed for applications developed to use Windows Sockets (Winsock) and TCP/IP, Winsock Direct transparently opens existing applications to a new networking model called System Area Networks. Under the new networking model, secure servers are hooked together with high-bandwidth cables, hubs and switches within an IP subnet. Winsock Direct allows communication among servers within a System Area Network to bypass the TCP/IP stack, reducing network traffic and processor interrupts. The resulting reduction in latency allows servers to transfer data at rates approaching wire speed.

Another new feature is the Process Control tool. With Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server, Microsoft introduced the job object, a way of grouping related processes together. In Datacenter Server with the Process Control tool, Microsoft allows administrators to manage and monitor job objects.

The tool lets administrators assign specific processors to certain job objects, to schedule priorities, to set an allowable number of processes or memory or CPU time for a job object. Rules set through the Process Control tool prevent runaway processes from consuming too much memory or CPU time.

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