Climbing Mt. Whistler: A Preview of the Next NT

The nextmajor upgrade to Microsoft’s Windows NT operating system, code-named Whistler,will be primarily a consumer upgrade that finally unites the Windows NT andWindows 9.x code bases. But there are a few important changes to the serverdimension up Microsoft’s sleeve.

None of themajor enhancements to Whistler Server are found in the Beta 1 software releasedto a narrow group of software testers this month. But plans call for addingpruning and grafting capabilities to the Active Directory, introducing InternetInformation Services 6.0, and inserting server extensions for Microsoft Office.

In fact,the late addition of these features will cause Whistler Server to be releasedsometime after the Whistler business and consumer client software, says MarkHassall, Microsoft’s lead product manager for IT server infrastructure.

“This isnot a paradigm shift like we had from Windows NT to Windows 2000,” Hassall saysof the business features and functionality in Windows NT 6.0. “Whistler isabout the consumer.”

Hassallsays Whistler represents the first time consumers will have an operating systemwith business-class stability and robust home networking capabilities.

Theseparate Whistler business client and Whistler consumer client operatingsystems are currently scheduled to go to gold code in the summer of 2001 so itwill be available to holiday shoppers next year, Hassall says.

TheMicrosoft schedule calls for Whistler Server, Whistler Advanced Server, andWhistler Datacenter Server to all hit the market later in 2001, Hassall says.Whistler Datacenter Server is not yet in beta testing. Decisions about itsfeature set won’t be made until Whistler enters general beta testing sometimenext year.

Meanwhile,Microsoft skipped the Windows 2000 release for its embedded platform. “We’removing from NT embedded to Whistler embedded,” explains Deanne Hoppe, leadproduct manager for Microsoft’s embedded and wireless products. Microsoftintends to ship embedded versions of the operating systems three months afterthe general release -- client first, then server. “Ninety days is a hardcommitment,” she says.

Analystsare already predicting a delay in the shipment of the operating system. TomBittman, vice president and analyst at GartnerGroup, who characterizes thebusiness aspect of the release as a “fix and finish” release to Windows 2000,anticipates slippage into the first half of 2002.

Microsoft’smuch ballyhooed .NET initiative will not make much of an impact in Whistler, atleast at the early stage. Despite speculation that Whistler may get the nameWindows .NET, Microsoft is positioning only a few new or enhanced Whistlerfeatures -- such as Windows Update, messenger services, and Microsoft Passportauthentication -- as part of .NET. The bulk of .NET features will come inWindows NT 7.0, code-named Blackcomb.

In manyways, the Whistler Server will represent an Active Directory 2.0. The pruningand grafting capabilities Microsoft is adding are supposed to allowcross-forest management, which is necessary when two companies with matureActive Directory structures are merged. The capabilities would also allow corporationsgreater flexibility in allowing grassroots deployments of Active Directory atthe department level.

The pruningand grafting tools are likely to appear in Beta 2, Hassall says.

With Beta1, Microsoft introduced new features to the Active Directory Users andComputers snap-in: drag-and-drop capability and the ability to edit multipleuser objects at once.

“Those areprobably the two most requested changes,” says Andrew Ma, product manager inMicrosoft’s IT server infrastructure group.

OtherActive Directory enhancements include the ability to create Domain Controllersfrom CDs or other media, reduction in Global Catalog replication traffic, andending the need to have a local version of the Global Catalog for log on.

Microsoftis also pulling in Resultant Set of Policies (RSoP) functionality in Whistler.RSoP allows an administrator to see what effect changes in a group policy mighthave on affected objects without actually implementing the changes.

The serverextensions for Office, another feature to be introduced in Beta 2, could besticky if the proposed antitrust remedy is followed through. This feature is aclear tie between the operating system and Microsoft’s premiere set ofapplications -- something a breakup order might frown upon.

Microsoftrecently published information on its Web site about an Office ServerExtensions add-on for Windows 2000. The extensions provide tight integrationbetween the Office suite of productivity products and Microsoft’s InternetInformation Server (IIS), enabling workgroups and enterprises to quicklypublish on the Web. Microsoft promotes the feature as a means for keepingintranets fresh and easy to update.

Othernew server features in Whistler include support for a command-line interface onmore native Windows tools, and support for “headless” Windows. Headless allowsthe operation of Windows servers without requirements for keyboard, video, andmouse cabling, and would come with new remote management capabilities.Microsoft also plans to extend remote administration capabilities throughTerminal Services to the Whistler business client.

Developerscan look forward to enhancements to Microsoft’s side-by-side DLL technologyintroduced in Windows 2000. “We did have some limited support for side-by-sideDLLs in Windows 2000, but it wasn’t widely used,” Hassall says. Whistler willinclude a directory for side-by-side DLLs.

ChristopherMcConnell and Joseph McKendrick contributed to this report.

Index:
Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., www.microsoft.com
GartnerGroup, Stamford, Conn., www.gartner.com