Gates Unveils Windows 2000 Follow-on Roadmap

Although the launch of Windows 2000 may have seemed like the end of a multiyear project for Microsoft Corp., the company still has to prep the rest of its lineup for the new platform.

In fact, Bill Gates, Microsoft's ( chairman and chief software architect, outlined at the Windows 2000 launch last month nine follow-on products to come out this year.

Skeptics might recall that Windows 2000 was first promised for 1998, then 1999, before finally shipping last month. But a close look at the roadmap indicates many of the products do have a strong chance of shipping this calendar year.

"Windows 2000 is the kickoff for a whole new generation of products that we’re building. We’re taking everything that we do, and putting that on Windows 2000," said Gates during the Feb. 17 event in San Francisco.

The nine products are Windows 2000 Datacenter Server; Windows 2000/64-bit; Embedded Windows 2000; SQL Server 2000; Exchange Server 2000; Application Center 2000; Commerce Server 2000; BizTalk Server 2000; and Host Integration Server 2000.

Several products are in beta testing. Windows 2000 Datacenter Server’s projected release date has been slipping modestly since the product was announced in late 1998, but it was scheduled to go into Beta 2 this month. Microsoft officials say final code should ship by late June.

Another product currently slated for a summer release is SQL Server 2000. Microsoft will open the global Beta 2 testing program for its flagship RDBMS in April. The version will allow customers to evaluate a previously undisclosed feature called distributed partitioned views. Microsoft used that technology last month to achieve the highest performance results yet published for the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC, OLTP benchmark, the TPC-C.

Documents filed with TPC promise availability of the entire system, which would include SQL Server 2000, by Aug. 1.

Another application on the list that’s in beta testing is Exchange Server 2000, one of the first applications to fully leverage the power of Microsoft’s Active Directory.

Since the Windows 2000 launch, Microsoft split Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server, which enables online conferencing, from the base Exchange 2000 product. According to Microsoft officials, customers requested it to be a separate entity with stronger administration controls than the version originally within Exchange 2000. Conferencing Server is scheduled for release with the rest of the Exchange 2000 line sometime in the first half of this year.

Microsoft is planning to release an updated version of Commerce Server -- the rechristened Site Server, Commerce Edition -- sometime this year.

Rebekkah Kumar, lead product manager for Commerce Server, says the company is building an integrated set of tools and components for e-commerce to be added to the server.

Last year, Microsoft intended to ship Commerce Server and BizTalk Server in the second half of 1999. But that was when the company still expected Windows 2000 to ship earlier than it did. Since both servers are reliant on Windows 2000, they were delayed in accordance with the base operating system.

Three days before the Windows 2000 launch, Microsoft issued a press release stating that BizTalk Server 2000 will preview this spring. The statement, however, made no comments on the final availability timeframe.

A longer shot for availability this year includes Host Integration Server 2000. Code-named Babylon, Host Integration Server is the successor to the SNA Server component of BackOffice. It only recently entered beta testing. The product represents a major repurposing of the product, and could end up taking some time before it is delivered.

Application Center 2000, previously known as AppCenter Server, was announced late last year as a tool for administering farms of application and Web servers. During the Windows 2000 launch, Microsoft demonstrated the management of a large Web server farm with Application Center 2000. Capabilities included the ability to add a new Web server through Application Center 2000 by polling the existing machines in the farm and automatically configuring the new server and bringing it online in about a minute.

Given the relatively recent decision to turn some management capabilities into a distinct product, give Microsoft past December 2000 to get this one out the door.

Windows 2000/64-bit introduces an extra level of complexity because it is dependent on Intel Corp. ( delivering a 64-bit processor. Current plans call for both a workstation and server version. Microsoft officials say the operating system will be ready as soon as the chip is.

Although Gates did not mention it in his keynote, recent reports suggest Redmond is hard at work on another update to its Office suite, internally dubbed Office 10. The pending product is scheduled to hit beta sites this summer and become generally available within a year. It’s too early to tell how plausible this schedule is, and Microsoft is not commenting on Office 10. But reports say the new version will include improved collaborative features and voice technology. Microsoft will also use Office 10 to further its application hosting program for the Office suite.