Finally, Movement on Datacenter Server

Later this month, Microsoft Corp. and a handful of partners will launch Windows 2000 Datacenter Server in San Francisco.

This version of the Windows operating system is one of the key components of Microsoft’s assault on the enterprise.

Datacenter Server introduces a number of elements to the Windows platform. For instance, this iteration of the operating system can support 32 processors and 64 GB of RAM, both useful qualities for large databases. It expands the platform’s failover clustering from its current two nodes -- available on Windows NT 4.0 Server, Enterprise Edition, and Windows 2000 Advanced Server -- to four nodes. Many Exchange users will find this feature attractive. The operating system also offers Process Control, which gives administrators granular control in assigning jobs to processors in SMP configurations.

It took Microsoft awhile to get these new features ironed out. Originally, plans called for Datacenter's release 60 days after the other three versions of Windows 2000. The deadline kept slipping. The last official word was 120 days, which passed in June. Release to Manufacturing finally occurred last month, about six months after the Feb. 17 Windows 2000 launch. When customers will start to get Datacenter systems from OEMs is still anybody's guess.

A large part of the delay was due to nailing down the important Windows Datacenter Program, a partnership between Microsoft and roughly a dozen OEMs who will certify complete systems running Datacenter Server. Customers will only be able to buy Datacenter as part of a complete system, and extensive support programs are being put in place to make sure Datacenter Server customers get quick resolutions to problems with no finger pointing between vendors.

Are you clamoring for Datacenter? Probably not. It seems at present the only one relying heavily on Microsoft to deliver the software is Unisys Corp., which is betting a large part of its future on the ES7000 32-processor CMP systems that are tailor-made for Datacenter Server.

Windows 2000 and Active Directory are long-sales-cycle products for Microsoft. Datacenter Server -- with conservative systems administrators as customers -- will probably be on a sales cycle that is longer still.

Add to the long sales cycle the fact that Microsoft is entering a market space full of mature products that IT administrators already trust. Windows 2000 leaves Linux capabilities behind with Datacenter Server, but it is entering the territory of Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP-UX, and IBM Corp.’s AIX.

Given Microsoft’s reputation in those environments, Redmond was shrewd to leave the Datacenter Server promotion to parties already trusted there, such as Unisys and Compaq Computer Corp. For example, Unisys was the one bragging when Datacenter ran and showed good scalability gains across 16 processors, and then 32 chips. Bill Gates gave a quote for the news release, but the announcement came from Unisys.

Microsoft’s emphasis with Datacenter Server on service and support is well placed. If Datacenter Server is to make any headway in this competitive arena, the Windows Datacenter Program must live up to its billing.

Now that Datacenter Server is finally coming out, I have a few questions. Will you evaluate Datacenter Server for large databases and other glass-house applications? Would you ever consider moving Unix applications to Datacenter Server? Do you expect Datacenter Server to find its place in your enterprise as a replacement for current Windows systems where apps are butting against a performance ceiling? Let me know your thoughts on Datacenter Server at sbekker@entmag.com.