Opening the Doors of Scalability: Windows 2000 Datacenter Server

While Microsoft Corp.’s harem of hardware vendors has yet to proclaim plans for the imminent Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, based on past history it is safe to presume the supporting hardware will appear when the software emerges.

While Microsoft Corp.’s harem of hardware vendors has yet to proclaim plans for the imminent Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, based on past history it is safe to presume the supporting hardware will appear when the software emerges.

The announcement that Datacenter Server, the only entirely new component to the Windows 2000 line, will support up to 32-way processing in an OEM version and 16-way processing in the shrink-wrapped box opens doors for hardware vendors.

A few high-end server vendors, such as Sequent Computer Systems Inc. (Beaverton, Ore., www.sequent.com), Unisys Corp. (Blue Bell, Pa., www.unisys.com) and Amdahl Corp. (Sunnyvale, Calif., www.amdahl.com) essentially have been waiting for the software technology to catch up with the hardware these companies already possess.

"From the hardware perspective, we needed to have a vehicle to justify the delivery of more powerful hardware," says Michel Gambier, director of Microsoft partnership, Sequent. "Microsoft was essentially putting constraints on hardware because Windows NT doesn’t scale well."

Unisys Corp. announced a 32-way multiprocessing machine several months ago, and the company claims that Windows 2000 Datacenter Server will be the product that gives reason to machines that powerful. "The Datacenter Server will be the foundation for moving toward large-scale enterprise environments and cellular multiprocessing," says Bill Maclean, vice president of server business initiative with Unisys.

Amdahl’s Fujitsu Teamserver M831I houses eight Xeon processors, thus once again raising the scalability issue. Windows NT 4.0 scales well only up to four processors, but when running on an eight-way machine, scalability enters the no man’s land of disappointing performance, where hardware vendors blame the software and Microsoft blames the hardware. For this reason, other server vendors that partner with Microsoft, such as IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., and Hewlett-Packard Co., have yet to market 16-way or 32-way boxes. In some cases, they don’t even offer eight-way systems.

Although these vendors currently do not market Windows NT boxes with processing power enough to fully handle the Datacenter Server, expect to see such machines down the road. "Around the year 2000 it is reasonable to expect systems with 16- and 32-way processing from more vendors," says Vince Gayman, high-availability marketing manager at Compaq Industry Standard Server Division.