Datacenter Directions

The mid-June delivery target for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is approaching fast, but a key preliminary step for the high-end version of Windows 2000, the Beta 2 version, had not shipped by press time in mid-May.

"You can expect to see something out to OEMs this month," says Michel Gambier, product manager for Microsoft Corp.’s (www.microsoft.com) Windows 2000 enterprise marketing. "RTM of the Datacenter program is targeted for [the] summer timeframe. Everything appears to continue to be on schedule."

Microsoft first unveiled Windows 2000 Datacenter Server back in October 1998 when the company publicly revealed the name change from Windows NT 5.0 to Windows 2000. By August 1999, Microsoft had the time between the general Windows 2000 release and the Datacenter release at about 90 to 120 days. Since Windows 2000 was released in mid-February, that places Datacenter's projected arrival in mid-June. An official revision of post-120 day release date hasn’t been discussed, but it would be a surprisingly quick turnaround if Microsoft issued an RTM less than a month after releasing Beta 2.

This is especially true because Beta 2 introduces the Windows Datacenter Program, a service and support component for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server that involves rigorous system testing and tight change control requirements.

Some OEMs expected Beta 2 in March; others expected it by late April. One possible deadline could be July 13, a date Unisys Corp. (www.unisys.com) told the Transaction Performance Processing Council (www.tpc.org) that a system the company benchmarked using a prerelease version of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server would be available.

Amazingly, before Datacenter Server is released for the first time, Microsoft already is discussing plans for future versions of the platform.

One slide during a presentation on "Enhancing Windows for the Enterprise" at WinHEC in New Orleans late last month, showed a "Scale-Up Roadmap: Hardware Support" with information about future releases of Datacenter.

"This slide is meant to show that we are working to ensure that future versions of Windows 2000 meet the scalability requirements of our customers," Gambier cautioned ENT. "This slide should not be taken as a roadmap for future product releases. It is still premature to talk about the packaging of these future releases."

Nonetheless, the slide showed some of the things Microsoft is considering for Datacenter and for 64-bit Windows 2000 Server, which is also slated for release this year after Intel Corp. (www.intel.com) delivers its Itanium processors.

Datacenter Server is to be released in 32-bit and 64-bit versions in the next release of Windows, tentatively scheduled for 2001 and code-named Whistler.

The slide showed that Microsoft may consider reaching downward with the 64-bit version of Whistler Datacenter Server to scoop up four-processor systems. Current plans for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server are for the high-end operating system to be licensed only with eight-processor capable servers. The presentation also showed 32-bit Whistler Datacenter supporting only eight-way-or-larger systems.

Given that Microsoft also plans a 64-bit version of a Whistler Advanced Server, the licensing arrangement would broaden the overlap between Datacenter Server and Advanced Server.

On the 64-bit front, Microsoft listed four types of systems that 64-bit Windows 2000 Server would support this year in advance of a 64-bit Whistler Datacenter Server or 64-bit Whistler Advanced Server releases.

The slide lists four-processor, eight-processor, 16-processor, and 32-processor iA64 systems as slated for support under 64-bit Windows 2000 Server. Compaq Computer Corp. demonstrated a 64-bit, four-processor system called "Blazer," NEC Computers Inc. (www.neccsd.com) demonstrated a 16-way system, and Unisys Corp. is shipping a 32-processor system that will support Itanium as well as 32-bit processors.

Gambier suggests Microsoft is concentrating on the four-processor configurations for immediate availability. "We are hearing that most OEMs plan to ship standard four-way configurations; however, there are other OEMs that plan on shipping systems that support more than four CPUs. We are working very closely with them to ensure that the Itanium release of 64-bit Windows meets their and our customers’ scalability needs," Gambier says.

Most of the data points in the Microsoft roadmap could be associated with specific systems except for one. Microsoft listed a 64-processor iA64 system that would be supported by 64-bit Datacenter Server in the year 2002. As of now, hardware vendors are not discussing plans for 64-processor servers. Gambier declined to elaborate.

Nonetheless, the listing of 64-way systems in 2002 gives a hint of when Microsoft may be looking to move up to that level of processor support.

Another element of the roadmap shows NUMA as an important trend for Windows scale-up strategies, indicating that could be one route to 64-processor scalability.

[Infobox]

Reading Tea Leaves

Microsoft Corp. has kept largely silent on Datacenter Server. A recent Windows Hardware Engineering Conference presentation hinted at some of the features the company is considering for future releases of the product:

  • Reaching up to support 64 processors around 2002
  • Reaching down to support four processor in 64-bit version (2001)
  • Greater support for NUMA systems