Greetings,
Allen Jones and I swapped responsibilities for this issue of IIS Administrator UPDATE. I usually write the Tips and Tricks column, and he's written this Commentary column for more than a year. At a recent Windows 2000 Magazine editorial conference, we agreed to occasionally reverse roles. Tell us what you think!

At Spring Internet World on March 14, Microsoft issued a press release about the launch of Application Center 2000—the second to last of the .NET Enterprise Servers to ship during the past 6 months. (Mobile Information 2001 Server will be the last to ship.) Application Center 2000's launch marks the last and long-awaited release of all 2000 versions of the .NET Enterprise Servers (Biztalk, Commerce, Exchange, Host Integration, Internet Security and Acceleration—ISA, and SQL Server).

I have to be honest. I've already written two technical articles for the IIS Administrator print newsletter about Application Center 2000's features (see links at the end of the paragraph). I adore the product and am consistently amazed by its feature set, maybe because we in the software development, architecture, and infrastructure communities have waited so long for this kind of deployment and management tool.

http://www.iisadministrator.com/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=20060
http://www.iisadministrator.com/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=16468

The Microsoft press release stresses Application Center 2000's manageability—the product lets you manage a Web farm, no matter how large, as easily and cost effectively as you can manage a single box. Many folks in the software-development community have painfully deployed software for a long time. I can include myself in this group. Software-writing tools keep getting better, so why is it so difficult to deploy software? A few years ago, Web applications promised ease of deployment. Sure, Web applications are dramatically easier to deploy than the Win32 applications of yesteryear, but why do I still have to suffer the 4-hour ordeal of walking up to each box in a Web farm and "bouncing" the Web server when it's time to deploy a new DLL? Application Center 2000 solves this problem and some of the other large problems we face when we deploy and manage Web applications.

Microsoft's release announcement is a big thing for my clients and me; now we can be part of implementations in small Web farms all the way up to the giant Web farms of the Fortune 500 companies. Recently, I talked to Bob Pulliam, technical product manager for Application Center 2000; one of the first things he said was "Application Center is a dream come true for IIS administrators." I have to agree with him. You can't imagine the joy I've seen in IIS administrators when Application Center 2000 automatically deployed an updated COM component to every server in a Web farm—quickly and painlessly! It might have been risky for companies to put Application Center 2000's beta version into production, but many have done so successfully.

Microsoft's press release positions Application Center as the ".NET Alternative to 'big iron' solutions." Without a doubt, Microsoft isn't "spinning" the product on its feature set, which would be typical of the past few products. During the past year, Microsoft has publicly indicated that the perception that Microsoft doesn't play in the enterprise is "annoying" because it isn't true. Even after independent agencies proved that—feature for feature—SQL Server can compete with, if not surpass, database solutions from IBM and Oracle at much lower price points, the stigma remains. Microsoft's press release states that not only do Web application farms built on the backbone of Application Center 2000 compete with "big iron" solutions, they do it better—with more reliability, fault tolerance, scalability, cost effectiveness, and better manageability.

To read the press release, visit Microsoft's PressPass Web site.

For more details about Application Center and its features, visit the Application Center 2000 home page.

Until next time,