Windows Server System Takes Center Stage

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Microsoft placed the focus squarely on its Windows Server System line of products Monday at it's Tech Ed 2003 conference in Dallas, anchoring the event with the announcement of the availability of release candidate 1 (RC1) of Exchange Server 2003.

"RC1 marks a major milestone in the development of Exchange 2003, the most rigorously tested version of Exchange ever," said Mohsen al-Ghosein, vice president of Exchange Server at Microsoft. "In addition to 100 percent internal deployment at Microsoft, Exchange 2003 has been running in production for select customers and partners in our Joint Development Program (JDP) for over a year. RC1 is a call to action for customers to start testing and planning their deployment of Exchange 2003."

The company also used the event to announce that it will invest more than $1.7 billion in research and development on the Windows Server System in the next fiscal year, and that it will ship SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services by the end of 2003, with a public beta this fall. It also took the opportunity to announce that it will release Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 to manufacturing in June, and the immediate availability of the first beta of BizTalk Server 2004, formerly known as the "Voyager" phase of its "Jupiter" code project.

Exchange Server 2003 Hits RC1
The Exchange Server 2003 RC1 took pride-of-place Monday, and Microsoft said it comes in two editions: Standard and Enterprise. The standard edition is geared for small- to medium-sized organizations, as well as branch offices, while enterprise edition targets large organizations with more complex deployments and scaling requirements. Microsoft also noted that RC1 marks the first time the standard edition can be used for a front-end scenario, allowing customers to deploy Outlook Web Access without having to purchase the enterprise edition.

Microsoft is also boasting new deployment tools in Exchange Server 2003 RC1. The tools are designed to help Exchange 5.5 customers plan and implement a "smooth" upgrade while also maintaining the availability of their messaging infrastructures. Part of the toolset is a set of analysis and reporting tools intended to give customers an accurate picture of their existing networks and Exchange 5.5 environment before beginning the Exchange 2003 deployment.

On the Active Directory front, Microsoft said it provides the Active Directory Migration Tool (ADMT) 2.0 and the Exchange Active Directory Connector (ADC).

ADMT 2.0 is designed to aid the migration to the Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Service while ADC is intended to smooth the path by enabling coexistence and replication between the Exchange 5.5 directory and Active Directory.

The upgrade tools also verify that each step of the installation process is successfully completed before the next step begins, and they also offer the option to perform multiple, simultaneous scheduled moves of Exchange 5.5 mailboxes to Exchange 2003. They also include a public and system folder migration tool.

Microsoft said that in an effort to be flexible in meeting customer upgrade schedules and budgets, it has designed the product so it can be deployed in phases and can coexist with other messaging servers running Exchange 2000 and/or Exchange 5.5. It also noted that Outlook 2003, Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2000 can work with Exchange 2003.

The company noted that more than 200 partners are already prepping the delivery of Exchange 2003 solutions. Many of those partners are taking advantage of Exchange's new virus-scanning API (VSAPI) 2.5 and a new antispam tool in order to build integrated security, antivirus and antispam solutions for Exchange.

Others -- including CommVault Systems, Computer Associates , Dell , EMC , Hewlett-Packard , IBM , Legato Systems , and Veritas Software -- are readying enhanced backup and restore operations solutions based on the new Volume Shadow Copy Services supported by Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.

Investing in Server System R&D
But Microsoft isn't letting the rest of its Windows Server System Division languish. Paul Flessner, senior vice president of the division, announced Monday that the company will invest more than $1.7 billion in research and development in the Windows Server System in the next fiscal year. It will supplement that investment with $450 million in community-based efforts for supporting IT professionals and developers.

During the his opening keynote Monday morning, Flessner told the audience that these investments are intended to decrease the ongoing maintenance costs associated with IT, decrease the time IT requires to deliver new business capabilities, and increase the ability of IT to provide innovative solutions that deliver competitive advantages.

"Today, customers struggle with IT being too complex and too costly, a situation created by the entire technology industry," Flessner said. "Ultimately, our goal is to help IT professionals say 'Yes!' to innovative new projects that propel the business forward and to enable individuals and businesses to utilize IT to its full potential. We do this by delivering great software and world-class support, backed up by a global network of partners."

The research and development investment will focus on four areas:

  • Application infrastructure capabilities that provide the component capabilities for closed-loop design and development, including data management capabilities in SQL Server, e-business and integration capabilities in BizTalk Server, Content Management Server, Commerce Server and Host Integration Server
  • Operations infrastructure capabilities for more secure, rapid deployment and reduction in the complexity of management and IT operations, including a focus on firewall security and caching capabilities through Internet Security and Acceleration Server, management capabilities through Operations Manager, Application Center and Systems Management Server, and networked storage capabilities through Windows Storage Server
  • Information worker infrastructure capabilities that enhance end users' ability to reach, analyze and share information through communication and collaboration scenarios, focusing on messaging, collaboration and real-time communications capabilities with Exchange Server, Office SharePoint Portal Server, Project Server and Office Real-Time Communications Server
  • The Windows Server 2003 server platform itself.

In addition, the $450 million earmarked for community-based efforts will support Microsoft TechNet and the MSDN developer program. Microsoft said it will also provide more than 200 new web casts on topics like security, 16 new online skills assessments to direct IT professionals to relevant training, free, two-day, on-site technical training and road show seminars for IT implementers to aid in migration to Windows Server 2003, an open campus program to demonstrate how Microsoft runs its IT shop, 125 new books for developers and IT professionals, 35 new e-learning training sessions and 39 new courses, workshops and clinics.

SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services in 2003
Microsoft also used Tech Ed to announce that it will ship SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services by the end of the year, with a public beta scheduled this fall. Reporting Services are intended to provide real-time information from any data source to any device.

"SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services on the Microsoft platform delivers the key capabilities for companies and information workers to make critical, timely and accurate decisions in today's real-time business environment," said Gordon Mangione, corporate vice president for SQL Server at Microsoft.

Reporting Services is designed as a business intelligence platform upon which developers can build custom applications. Microsoft noted that it will support a range of data sources, including OLE DB and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), as well as multiple output formats including Web browsers and Microsoft Office System applications. Additionally, developers can use Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework to connect to custom data sources, produce additional output formats and deliver to more devices. It also integrates analytics, including online analytical processing (OLAP), data mining, data warehousing, extract, transform, load (ETL) tools and reporting functionality.

Storage Server Slated for June
Windows Storage Server 2003, formerly known as Windows Powered Network Attached Storage (NAS), also got some play as Microsoft announced that it will release the product to manufacturing in June, and it will be broadly available from OEMs in September.

A dedicated file server, Microsoft said Storage Server offers a highly scalable storage solution -- ranging from 160 GB to multiple terabytes -- that can easily integrate with existing IT infrastructure. Like Exchange Server 2003 and the Windows Server 2003 operating system, Storage Server incorporates support for the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) feature, providing a backup and recovery solution that can restore deleted or corrupted data quickly by creating copies of data from a specific point in time of a single volume or multiple volumes. The product also incorporates Distributed File System (DFS), server clustering and Mulitpath Input/Output technology. In addition, Microsoft said it supports the Windows Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) initiator, providing a way to manage and incorporate a NAS device into an IP-based Storage Area Network (SAN).

Microsoft said numerous OEMs are working with it to support Storage Server, including Dell, EMC, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, IBM, Iomega, Legend Group and NEC.

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