NT's emerging technology evokes memories

Some of the Lab Guys are young, and dedicated to keeping pace with this fast-moving industry, no matter how much caffeine it takes to keep them going. Others, however, are older and have accumulated a fair amount of experience dealing with computers. In contrast to the younger Lab Guys, the older Lab Guys rely on their wit and wile to navigate the NT market.

Lately, the older Lab Guys have been able to sit back and gleefully watch the younger Lab Guys feverishly work to get up to speed on emerging NT technology. Why aren't the older Lab Guys in a dither about all of the new NT technology? That's easy--much of this "new" technology in NT is, in fact, tried-and-true technology that the computer industry has used for years. For once, the older Lab Guys get to use knowledge they've had stored in their heads for quite some time. The newer Lab Guys must fill their brain cells with new information.

Now, don't misunderstand us. We're not saying that Microsoft is simply brushing the dust off the old technology and shoving it into its products. Obviously Microsoft modernized all the technology coming to NT and gave it an appropriate NT spin. But basics are basics. Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) by any other name is still a multitiered storage system.

What technology are we talking about? Well, the current list of golden oldies now playing in the NT market include:

* HSM: A convenient means to conserve hard disk resources by automatically offloading and reloading seldom-used files to slower storage. HSM will be part of NT Server 5.0.

* On-the-fly volume management: The ability to manage the characteristics of your hard disk and volume assignments without rebooting to put changes into effect. This method will also be part of NT Server 5.0

* Media services layer (NT Media Services--NTMS): A method of standardizing storage devices and the associated media for better access and manageability. Guess what? That's right, NTMS will be available with NT Server 5.0.

* Kereberos security: A more secure and more flexible means of logon and access authorization. This security is coming to NT Server 5.0.

* Transaction processing (Microsoft Transaction Server--MTS): A distributed processing methodology that breaks application workloads into small, self-contained processing units. This methodology is available for NT Server 4.0.

* Asynchronous and synchronous messaging: A queuing interface added to provide compatibility with other host queuing interfaces (e.g., IBM's Message Queue Interface--MQI) and to deliver new application-to-application communication transports. This interface is coming soon to an unknown NT version number.

* Failover clustering: The capability to have one server take over for another in the event of a serious failure. This capability will be part of the Enterprise Edition of NT Server.

* Multiuser NT (or the Windows-based Terminal Server): Support for multiple, thin-client terminals all sharing the resources of a single, common NT Server system. This support is coming soon to an unknown NT version number.

This list makes some of us nostalgic about systems we have worked on. Remember Digital Equipment's VMS machines with their sophisticated clustering and message queuing facilities? Or how about those mainframes and their HSM capabilities? Or Tandem Computers and transaction serving? Or UNIX and volume management? Yep, it's déjà vu.

In our minds, rediscovering old technology is a good thing, and not just because we get to use our existing brain cells. In fact, we see two important benefits to these developments.

First, these developments bring NT Server up to speed with other commercial-grade midrange computer systems. And we're not talking about just UNIX here--although if you listen to Microsoft too long, you might forget that other operating systems are available. These new capabilities put NT on a par with UNIX and with OpenVMS, MPE, OS/400, and the rest of the midrange operating systems.

Second, to implement these "new" capabilities in NT, Microsoft had to bring in some mature developers. We mean no offense to the NT developer staff of the past, but the influx of more experienced developers brings a certain maturity and stability to the NT team. We like the idea of Microsoft learning from past experience. And as a bonus, it makes some of us feel good about our age.