Microsoft: WINS Enhancements Proving an Intriguing Reason to Upgrade to Windows 2000

One of the most interesting things about moving to Windows 2000 for some customers, ironically enough, is the improvements to the Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS), according to a Microsoft Corp. consultant.

With Windows 2000, Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) builds up WINS even as it tries to tear it down. Microsoft added enough customer-driven enhancements to WINS to make the feature part of one of its most compelling incremental deployment stories. Get enough Windows 2000 servers into a network, though, and Microsoft wants WINS and NetBIOS gone, replaced with Dynamic Domain Name Service.

David Trulli, principal consultant for Microsoft Consulting Services in New Jersey, told a ballroom-full of IT administrators at the Windows 2000 Deployment Conference last month in New Orleans that many customers have expressed interest to him in immediately upgrading to Windows 2000 for WINS.

WINS servers map NetBIOS names to IP addresses on TCP/IP networks. They are not necessary in a pure Windows 2000 Server environment. But in early deployments and mixed Windows 2000/NT networks, WINS is required for down-level clients and NetBIOS-only applications such as Systems Management Server 2.0 and some other third-party applications.

Microsoft is taking the long view on actually stamping out WINS. "If you’re very aggressive in your rollout plans, you can eliminate WINS entirely. But in reality, you’ll probably need WINS for another two years or so," Trulli said.

"Eventually we expect NetBIOS to be turned off by default," he said. That default is at least two releases off, he said, putting it into the timeframe of the so-called "Blackcomb" release, which would follow the "Whistler" release scheduled for 2001.

For Windows 2000, customers asked Microsoft to improve WINS Manager by outputting WINS records to a file, allowing deletion of dynamic records, allowing type-based filtering of records, providing consistency checking, introducing proactive monitoring, and enabling read-only administration.

One of the features Microsoft was able to introduce included support for persistent connections. By allowing servers to maintain connections with replication partners, persistent connections eliminate the overhead of opening and closing connections. With Service Pack 4 and continuing into Windows 2000, Microsoft also introduced manual tombstoning. The capability allows an administrator who wants to delete a record to keep a tombstoned record around until the state change is propagated to all replication partners.

On the client side, Windows 2000 brings better fault tolerance by allowing clients to query up to 12 WINS servers per interface.

The improvements don’t mean Microsoft isn’t actively encouraging network administrators to get off of WINS.

Trulli gave the IT administrators several Microsoft-sanctioned recommendations for reducing their dependence on NetBIOS and WINS.

The first is to use only DNS-compatible names when using NetBIOS names. "We’ve been saying that for years and we’re still saying that," he said.

He also recommended that users query DNS for NetBIOS name resolution wherever possible, use DHCP/DDNS integration, consolidate to the fewest possible number of domains, and convert NetBIOS applications to WinSock.

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Reducing NetBIOS (WINS)

Microsoft Corp. is encouraging Windows 2000 to move away from NetBIOS names and WINS. Some of Microsoft’s recommended steps:

  • Only use DNS-compatible names as NetBIOS names.
  • Query DNS for NetBIOS name resolution.
  • Use DNS for NetBIOS name resolution options where possible.
  • Fewer domains are better.
  • Convert NetBIOS apps to WinSock
  • Migrate fully to Windows 2000

Source: Microsoft Windows 2000 Deployment Conference