Enterprise Server Technical Forecast: New Names, New Direction

ENT’s third annual Enterprise ServerTechnical Forecast comes on the heels of a monumental year for the group ofMicrosoft server products formerly known as the BackOffice servers.

First off,there was the name change: Microsoft’s emphasis shifted away from theBackOffice suite to the new collective concept of .NET Enterprise Servers.Microsoft is trying to achieve a couple of things by adopting new names.Redmond wants to distance its increasingly robust servers away from the small-to mid-market image of the BackOffice Suite. Microsoft also wants to infuse theIT world with the .NET idea.

But that’smarketing, and this is a technical forecast. This past year, Microsoft revampedalmost every server in the group to integrate with Windows 2000 and build onWindows 2000-generation technologies.

The processtook almost all year. Windows 2000 shipped in February, and Microsoft was stillscrambling in the last quarter of the year to push this 2000-generation ofenterprise servers out the door.

SQL Server2000, with its horizontal scaling and XML enablement; Exchange 2000 Server,with its tight Active Directory integration; and Host Integration Server 2000,the follow-on to SNA Server all launched in the fall. Commerce Server 2000 wentgold in November, and in a mad dash Microsoft finished code in December forInternet Security & Acceleration Server 2000 -- the greatly expandedsuccessor to Proxy Server -- and BizTalk Server 2000, the XML and e-businessintegration server.

Lookingahead through this year, expect Microsoft to finish some of the work it startedin 2000. Namely beginning to ship and push adoption for the three serverproducts it released to manufacturing in November and December, and to shipApplication Center 2000, the new infrastructure product for building andmanaging Web application farms.

Microsofthas two new back-end server products in its delivery queue this year. One isMobile Information Server for translating applications and e-mail into dataformats that can be beamed out to wireless devices. The other is Tahoe, acollaboration server that is not yet officially a .NET Enterprise Server.

In additionto the new distinct products, Microsoft has a few major initiatives on itsplate for the .NET Enterprise Servers. One, of course, is the fledgling .NETinitiative itself. The product teams don’t feel enough is being done yet toname the products .NET, such as SQL Server.NET, but do believe the .NETEnterprise Server moniker is justified since XML and SOAP is being integratedthroughout the product line.

Certainscalable products such as SQL Server and Exchange are also being readied toship in 64-bit versions in anticipation of Intel’s release of Itanium.

One othermajor development thrust this year is good news for Microsoft customers: anincreased focus on integration. Microsoft’s senior vice president for .NETEnterprise Servers, Paul Flessner sums up the initiative this way: “Thecustomers are saying, ‘You know, I’ve got all your products, but when I installthem all, I want a better experience across all of them. Because they all comefrom you, I’d like to be able to diagnose if I have a long response time, wheredid it happen? I’d like to be able to cache dynamic data in IIS and also inISA. I’d like security to be a little bit easier to set up and manage.’ It’sthings like that, that we’re looking hard at.”

SQLServer 2000

The latestiteration of Microsoft’s flagship relational database management system, SQLServer 2000, went through a number of changes to get where it is now. Many morechanges are on tap for the subsequent version, code-named Yukon, but those arenot likely to be seen in a release candidate anytime soon.

SQL Server2000’s release -- the first of eight .NET Servers to ship in August 2000 – hadbeen long-awaited. The release improves on SQL Server 7.0’s code by offeringenterprises increased XML capabilities, data mining integration, an enhancedcore relational engine, an enhanced core storage engine, and a scalabilityclustering mechanism known as Distributed Partition Views.

As the yeargoes on there undoubtedly will be improvements made to this newest iteration.With SQL Server 2000, Redmond is taking a new approach to updates. “We have amodel where we are releasing updates to the Web. The updates are different thanService Packs,” says Jeff Ressler, lead product manager for SQL Server.“Service Packs are reserved for fixes, to address issues with things such ashardware, while Web fixes are added functionality, such as XML components. Theyare unique additions to SQL Server.”

For thosenot ready to migrate to SQL Server 2000, Microsoft is now offering Service Pack3 (SP3) for SQL Server 7.0. This is most likely the last Service Pack for SQLServer 7.0.

With SQLServer 2000, Microsoft made strides in scalability. The database also offerstight integration with BizTalk Server 2000 and Commerce Server 2000, integratedOLAP services known as Analysis Services, and English query features.

Comparedwith its biggest competitors -- Oracle8i and IBM DB2 -- SQL Server 2000’sfunctionality right on par. For SQL Server customers, the big selling pointsare Microsoft’s shared-nothing architecture and full integration with the other.NET Servers, as well as a much lower cost. One advantage Microsoft has is itslatest SQL offering -- which made its debut in October -- SQL Server 2000 forWindows CE.

Lookingahead, users can expect to see a 64-bit version of SQL Server 2000 emerge about60 to 90 days after 64-bit Windows is released. Beyond that, Microsoft says theYukon version of SQL Server will focus on programmability, scalability,reliability, and shared code with Visual Studio. As time progresses SQL Serverbecomes more important to the .NET framework, and its role will continue togrow in importance as Yukon’s release inches closer. When asked when thatrelease date might be, Microsoft says it isn’t talking.

HostIntegration Server 2000

InSeptember Microsoft rolled out its next generation of SNA Server with some newfunctionality and a new name: Host Integration Server (HIS) 2000.

With HIS,Microsoft is readdressing the continuing problem of connecting legacy hostsystems with client/server and Web networks. Many companies have a biginvestment in their existing systems, which are becoming outdated. To helppreserve these investments, HIS offers flexible mainframe integration offront-end systems and the Internet, bringing SNA network integration, dataintegration, and application integration technology to a new level.

But HIS isnot the same old SNA Server with a new name. It has some new features, and itdiscarded some other ones.

Built intoHIS is improved scalability and reliability, increased host support, singleuser log on, automatic load balancing, support for BizTalk Server 2000 andCommerce Server 2000, and an extended concept of a gateway. The improvedgateway concept enables host-to-Internet or host-to-intranet applicationdevelopment capabilities. In addition, HIS fully integrates with Windows 2000and Windows NT 4.0 -- although NT 4.0 Server must have SP6 installed before theinstallation of HIS.

One of thebiggest bonuses in HIS is the heterogeneous replication of data betweendatabases, which leverages SQL Server 2000. Microsoft, excited about theannouncement, mistakenly made too bold an announcement. After stating in April2000 that HIS was the only product that has bidirectional replicationcapabilities between Oracle and SQL Server, Microsoft was forced to rescind itsoriginal claim. DataMirror, in fact, offers the same capability in itsTransformation Server line.

Despite allthe new features, what is most noticeable about HIS is what is missing. Tobetter streamline the product, Microsoft removed support for what are becomingobsolete features, such as Banyan Vines, OS/2, FTP-AFTP Proxy, Alpha Processor,and SNA Workstation.

Oneimportant thing to note is that while HIS was developed from SNA Server and isbeing promoted as a new product, the two are essentially the same and cannotcoexist on the same computer at the same time.

Lookingdown the road in 2001, it is unlikely that we will see a new version of HISemerge soon.

BizTalkServer 2000

Manycompanies recognize the opportunities that digital marketplaces andbusiness-to-business e-commerce communities represent. Taking advantage ofthese opportunities, however, can sometimes be difficult. The roadblocks aremany, from orchestrating transactions throughout the enterprise to using publicstandards to ensure interoperability.

BizTalkServer 2000 is designed to eliminate these problems. Via XML and Simple ObjectAccess Protocol (SOAP), BizTalk Server 2000 unites enterprise applicationintegration, business-to-business integration, and BizTalk OrchestrationTechnology to provide the infrastructure and tools that enable companies tobuild business processes that extend applications, platforms, and businessesover the Internet.

All BizTalkServer 2000 exchanges are done in XML, while document transformation is done inthe XSLT standard. It also supports electronic data interchange (EDI), HTTP,SMTP, flat-file transfer, fax, and others.

Released tomanufacturing in December 2000, BizTalk Server 2000 was expected to becomegenerally available in January. It will be available in two editions:Enterprise and Standard. The Enterprise Edition is targeted at largeorganizations, trading hubs, and digital marketplaces. It integrates anunlimited number of internal applications with unlimited trading partners overthe Internet, and supports multiple processor and clustering deployments tohandle even the largest number of transaction volumes. The retail price isabout $24,999 per CPU.

TheStandard Edition is targeted at small and medium-sized organizations. Itincludes support for integrating up to five internal applications with up tofive external trading partners, but does not support multiprocessor orclustered deployments. The retail price is about $4,999 per CPU.

ISAServer 2000

It’stempting to call Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000 an updateto Microsoft’s older Proxy Server. That would be an injustice. There is so muchdifference that, while Proxy Server is part of its heritage, ISA Server 2000seems like an entirely new product.

ProxyServer provided performance improvements through caching: ISA Server 2000improves upon this by integrating two more pieces: a secure firewall and aunified management console. In addition, the new server provides a substantialimprovement in acceleration technology via caching.

Thefirewall component of ISA Server provides filtering at the packet, circuit, andapplication level. Many network administrators will be familiar with packetfiltering at routers, but the advantage of using ISA Server is to consolidatethe filtering activity on a single edge machine. In addition, the server can beprogrammed to only open TCP ports as needed, protecting them from random scansby external agents.

Windows2000 network managers will appreciate the fact that Microsoft chose to providea single management interface for the acceleration and caching features, aswell as the firewall capabilities.

Microsoftreleased ISA Server 2000 to manufacturing in mid-December. When it’s widelyavailable, there will be Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition versions. TheStandard version will be targeted at smaller networks that have a stand-alonecaching and firewall device at the edge of the network. Enterprise Edition istargeted at larger networks supporting multiple servers and centralizedmanagement consoles.

It’s tooearly to know how popular ISA Server will become, but Microsoft’s statistics onbeta downloads gives some indication. “We’re seeing a significant broadening inthe number and kinds of people interested in this product,” says Nevet Basker,business development manager for ISA Server. Basker points to surveys conductedwith the more than 50,000 downloaders that indicate two-thirds of the earlyadopters are not those looking to upgrade Proxy Server.

ISA Serverseems likely to appeal to a wider networking community. New features that use cachingto accelerate Internet performance will attract some. Others will look to theproduct for its security features. “It’s clear that people will come to theproduct looking for a specific tool, only to end up using it for the other,”she says. “In fact, there’s not much left of the single-function Proxy Servermarketplace.”

CommerceServer

MicrosoftCommerce Server, Microsoft’s fourth generation commerce server technology, isthe replacement for Site Server Commerce Edition (SSCE). Released to manufacturingin mid-November, Microsoft lists its general availability as this month.

Built onSSCE, which many in the industry consider a weak product, Commerce Serveroffers a host of improvements and upgrades. The product offers businesses a wayto get on the Web quickly, with a minimum of add-on products necessary.

One of themost significant improvements from SSCE to Commerce Server is a greater abilityto gather information about users. That’s the job of the profile and targetingsystems, which can pull data on users from multiple sources to build acomprehensive profile. The server can then use that profile to push relevantcontent to that user.

CommerceServer has a significantly beefed up product catalog system, which includes theability to build custom catalogs with special pricing for groups of users.Catalog search capabilities have been enhanced as well, making it easier forusers to find what they’re looking for. The product catalog system is built ona SQL Server 7.0 or SQL Server 2000 foundation, making the database a necessarycomponent.

Of greatinterest to managers will be the business analytics system. It’s a collectionof tools that includes a business data warehouse that works on SQL Server andacts as a repository for all site data, including click-stream usage, purchasehistory, user profile, an product, legacy, and external data. Other tools coverbusiness analysis, which includes built-in, OLAP-based analysis for enhancingsite effectiveness and developing more effective marketing strategies; andbusiness data mining to identify hidden trends and new customer segments.

CommerceServer also includes Site Packager, which makes it easy to build a site anddeploy it somewhere else, or to package sites created in other environments.

ApplicationCenter 2000

ApplicationCenter 2000 is Microsoft’s Web-tier software designed primarily for softwarescaling, clustering, and application management. Currently in Beta 2 release,the server is expected to be ready for general release in the first quarter of2001.

Side-by-sidewith Web farm growth has been the growth of the server appliance market,particularly Internet appliances such as Web and caching servers. Appliancesare single-purpose servers, and they are usually rack-mountable and thin,allowing up to 42 -- in a 1U form factor -- in a rack. Many companies aredeciding that they prefer to plug in a new server whenever they need to addcapacity. Scaling out, rather than scaling up, is the trend for dot-coms,traditional brick-and-mortar companies developing a Web presence, and forcorporations that are coming to rely on intranets for communications.Application Center 2000 was designed with these markets in mind.

ApplicationCenter 2000 allows IT managers to manage a cluster of Web servers as easily asmanaging one server. If you want to change a setting on 30 clustered Webservers, for instance, make the change to one server, and the programreplicates it to the others. The same principal applies for content changesacross the cluster.

ApplicationCenter 2000 also makes it easy to add servers to the cluster, cutting downconfiguration time by as much as 85 percent, according to a Microsoft estimate.Creating the cluster is done through a wizard, and adding a server to thecluster is essentially a point and click operation.

ApplicationCenter has a load balancing wizard option that eliminates many configurationoptions, making it easier to set up load balancing. Component load balancing isavailable to environments where security is an overriding concern and there isa need to segregate COM objects behind an additional firewall.

Microsoftuses the shared-nothing model, so in the event of a server failure the failed memberis taken offline in the background. Load balancing is automatically reconfiguredto distribute client requests.

ApplicationCenter 2000 has been in use for several months by a number of early adopterpartners. Early returns on the product, while not yet conclusive, have beenoverwhelmingly positive.

ExchangeServer 2000

Microsoftreleased Exchange 2000 at the Enterprise Server Launch event in September.Through its various releases and updates, Exchange has shifted from a basice-mail server to an infrastructure product that integrates a range ofcommunications tasks. With Exchange 2000, Microsoft added advanced conferencingand messaging features, allowing users a single point of contact for text,voice, and video communication.

Exchange2000 offers tight integration with Windows 2000 and Active Directory, settingit apart from Lotus Notes and the open-source Sendmail for NT.

ActiveDirectory integration could be Exchange 2000’s strength, or its downfall.Although Exchange 2000 is shipping, adoption rates are low right now. Exchange2000 requires Active Directory, an implementation many administrators are stillplanning or debating. Adoption should rise through the year as more enterprisesdeploy Active Directory within their infrastructures.

Microsofthas no plans to release a new version of Exchange this year, but the firstService Pack should arrive in the first half of the year, says Chris Baker,product manager for Exchange 2000 at Microsoft. A second Service Pack is slatedfor the second half of 2001. Although Microsoft introduced new feature inprevious Service Packs, Baker says administrators should expect only bug fixesin Exchange 2000’s Service Packs.

Baker saysMicrosoft will introduce a Hosting Pack for Exchange, as well. The Hosting Packwill enable application service providers and ISPs to better manage outsourcedmessaging. Advanced provisioning features will enable businesses to hostmultiple organizations on the same server, while keeping the accounts separate

MobileInformation Server

At theSept. 2000 Enterprise Server launch event, Microsoft surprised the industrywith its announcement of Mobile Information Server, a product for extendingfunctionality to small handheld devices. This is Microsoft’s first foray intodelivering data to mobile users.

Microsoftreleased the first beta of Mobile Information Server (MIS) in December, andplans to release a second beta soon. The final release is expected to appearsometime in the first half of this year, including versions for bothenterprises and wireless carriers.

Whenreleased, MIS will support the microbrowsers standard on wireless phones usingthe Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). WAP allows users to browse selectedinformation via a phone. Scott Gode, group product manager for MIS atMicrosoft, says Mobile Information server may support other handheld devices --such as personal digital assistants -- in the future, but Redmond will limitsupport to wireless phones in the first release.

MIS offersthe promise of connecting mobile users to enterprise data via wireless devices.Users will be able to send and receive e-mail, connect to SQL Server databases,and use other applications through the minimal browsers embedded into WAPphones.

One keycomponent of MIS is Outlook Mobile Access, a client designed for WAP phones.Like the Web-based client for Exchange, Outlook Mobile Access offers a virtualclient that allows remote users to access e-mail.

Gode sayssome phone vendors are considering the inclusion of Outlook Mobile Access onfuture generations of phones.

Users canconfigure priorities and settings when Outlook Mobile Access is tied to adesktop PC. Some e-mail may not make sense on WAP phones, so users can choosehow to handle the messages when working through Outlook Mobile Access.

Forexample, large PowerPoint files could prove a nightmare to mobile users. Evenif a phone had sufficient bandwidth to download the presentation, the small,low-resolution LCD screens on most phones would do a poor job of renderingslides. In this case, users could option out of receiving PowerPointattachments using the companion product.

Microsoft’s.NET initiative suggests a world where users are able to access information ona multitude of clients, and MIS may be a step in realizing that goal. “Itreally is a cornerstone of the platform, what we’re doing with .NET,” Godesays.

Microsoftis not alone in attempting to push information out to cell phones and PDAs. Anumber of vendors are planning or shipping server products for mobile devices.Microsoft may have to fight an uphill battle to get users on Mobile InformationServer.

TahoeServer

Microsoft’supcoming document management server, codenamed Tahoe Server, will add anothernew product to the Enterprise Server line. Tahoe will integrate with Office,Exchange, and IIS to provide infrastructure for simplified document sharing,workflow management, and Web publishing. Users interested in deeper datasharing may be interested in its integration with SQL 2000 and IBM’s Domino.

Microsoftreleased the second Tahoe beta at its Microsoft Exchange and Collaborations(MEC) seminar last October. Beta 2 is available for download at the Microsoftsite. The final version is expected to hit in the first half of this year.

Tahoe’sinitial development came out of Microsoft’s Office group, not the EnterpriseServer group. Therefore so it is not surprising that it will share tightintegration with forthcoming versions of Office. Through upcoming OfficeExtensions and IIS, users will be able to publish Office documents on the Webusing Tahoe Server. “We want to make it a natural extension of Office,” Bakersays. Similarly, documents can be shared using Outlook and Exchange.

Workflowrules, too, can be set by the organization. For example, an editorialdepartment can set rules ensuring that a reporter’s document is read over by aneditor before it become available on the Web. The integration with Exchangeautomates alerts to users.

Rather thana tool for content sites, Microsoft positions Tahoe as a tool for creatingportals. A sales organization could use Tahoe for creating a rich intranetfilled with sales charts, trending studies, and contact information, leavingsalespeople free to sell products rather than publish on the Web.

Companiesalready entrenched in document management include Xerox and IBM’s Lotusdivision. Like Lotus’ K-Station, Tahoe will have the advantage of integrationwith a messaging server and a productivity suite, but Microsoft may have toughcompetition as it goes up against established vendors.

MicrosoftServer History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BackOffice 4.5 

BackOffice 2000

Enterprise Servers

 

 

 

 

 

SQL Server 7.0

SQL Server 2000

SQL Server 2000

 

 

 

 

Exchange Server 5.5

Exchange Server 2000

Exchange Server 2000

 

 

 

 

 

SMS 2.0

SMS 2.0 w/ SP 2

X

 

 

 

 

 

Proxy Server 2.0

X

ISA 2000

 

 

 

 

 

Site Server 3.0

X

X

 

 

 

 

 

Site Server 3.0,

 

 

 

Commerce Edition

X

Commerce Server 2000

 

 

 

 

 

SNA Server 4.0

HIS 2000

HIS 2000

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

BizTalk Server 2000

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

Application Center 2000

 

 

Key:

SMS = Systems Management Server

ISA = Internet Security and Acceleration Server

HIS = Host Integration Server