With the release of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Microsoft plans to deliver a new product called Application Center 2000. Microsoft will bundle Application Center with Datacenter and sell it as a separate product to run on Win2K Advanced Server.

Application Center will offer some of the most important functionality in Windows enterprise computing, functionality that Microsoft held back from the initial release of Win2K Server and Win2K AS. Application Center will provide a high-availability deployment and management environment for Web applications built on the Win2K platform. And the software will provide necessary support for applications running across clusters of PC servers.

Application Center will extend Win2K's manageability, scalability, and availability. To enhance Win2K's manageability, Application Center will provide a one-to-many management console that lets administrators manage applications running in clusters as if the applications were running on one server. The software also offers a self-healing feature that protects important DLL files. To provide scalability, Application Center will let applications scale across an array of off-the-shelf PC servers. To increase availability, Application Center's load-balancing component will provide a fault-tolerant environment (without a single point of failure) for maximum uptime. This component extends applications built on Win2K to a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Computers (RAIC) architecture. RAIC provides both increased capacity and fault tolerance, and many system architects believe RAIC will be a key feature of large-scale enterprise application development efforts during the next few years.

Application Center is an extension of Microsoft's Web applications services: IIS, Active Server Pages (ASP), COM+, and Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ). The product provides management, monitoring, testing, and diagnostic tools—beyond those that Win2K Server and Win2K AS provide—for enterprise customers that need to create scalable and highly available solutions. For a complete list of Application Center's features, see Table 1.

Application Center will be a significant product introduction in the Windows enterprise-server portfolio. Many of this product's capabilities, such as load balancing, should have been part of Win2K AS but needed further development at release time. If this product delivers on its promise, it will likely become one of the most commonly used tools in an enterprise system architect's and system manager's arsenal. In terms of effect and importance, Application Center might even overshadow the release of Datacenter.