Windows NT Magazine columnists share their picks and predictions

Sphinxes and Hydras and Octopi-oh, my!

If you asked people on the street to step inside a room full of Sphinxes, Hydras, and Octopi, they would likely refuse, thinking they would be among winged monsters, multi-headed serpents, and tentacled creatures of the deep. But if you asked techies to do the same, they would jump at the chance, knowing that they would be in a room full of the latest technological advances in the computer industry.

The columnists of Windows NT Magazine fall into the techie category. In fact, Sphinx, Hydra, and OctopusHA+ are three of the many products they see making a difference in the computing world.

Windows NT Magazine asked its columnists to pick NT-related products that were influential in 1997 and to predict what NT-related products will be influential in 1998. Here are their picks and predictions.


Bob Chronister
Tricks and Traps

Pick for '97:
Exchange 5.x

Corporations rely heavily on email and other electronic communication systems. Consequently, vendor upgrades to email systems are crucial not only to a corporation's success but also to a vendor's reputation. Microsoft has improved its reputation in 1997 by upgrading Exchange twice, releasing Exchange 5.0 in early 1997 and Exchange 5.5 late in 1997.

Exchange 5.0 offers many functional and powerful new features. For example, the addition of Post Office Protocol (POP) 3 is a compelling reason to upgrade to Exchange 5.0. A built-in Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), ActiveX Web-based client interfaces, client groups, and dynamic routing also make Exchange 5.0 hard to resist.

With Exchange 5.0, you can easily set up and manage address folders. You can even set up encryption as part of the client address. (For more information about Exchange 5.0, see Tony Redmond, "Microsoft Exchange Server 5.0 Smoothes the Rough Edges," April 1997.)

Exchange 5.5 offers even more functionality and power. It supports Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and complies with Internet Mail Access Protocol (IMAP) 4. In addition, clients with Secure MIME (S/MIME) capabilities can send encrypted messages to each other via Exchange 5.5. You can even connect Exchange 5.5 to Lotus Notes with the Lotus Notes connector. (For more information about Exchange 5.5, see Tony Redmond, "Microsoft's Exchange Server 5.5 Debuts," December 1997.)

Microsoft's upgrades in versions 5.0 and 5.5 not only increase Exchange's functionality and power, but they also increase Windows NT's viability. This increase, in turn, is boosting the corporate environment's acceptance of NT.

Exchange Server 5.0 and 5.5
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/products/prodref/49_ov.htm


Prediction for '98:
Windows NT 5.0

Microsoft's improvements in Windows NT 5.0 are impressive, in both NT Workstation and NT Server. NT Workstation 5.0 features built-in support for asynchronous transfer mode (ATM). Although many people view ATM support as trivial, it broadens NT's network capability. For example, with ATM support, video streaming is possible. Built-in ATM clearly raises the standard for network communication.

Other improvements in NT Workstation 5.0 include:

  • A common interface for both the Web and hard disk. You can connect to the Internet by typing an address on the taskbar.
  • Built-in fax capabilities. You can launch fax applications from the Start button on your desktop.
  • Enhanced search capabilities. You can search both the Web and your system with comparable tools.
  • More user-friendly features. A screen reader lets you convert text to speech, and you can expand portions of the screen for easier viewing.

Clearly, Microsoft's advances to NT Workstation 5.0 are substantial.

Microsoft has also made many advances to NT Server 5.0. One powerful advance is Active Directory. AD's services go far beyond directory services in previous versions of NT. For example, with AD's multimaster replication, you can update account information at any domain controller. With the Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI), you can extend the network because ADSI provides a simple naming convention for all network objects. Because AD is scalable, you can scale NT to a network of any size. And AD automatically integrates intranet and Internet environments for you. These and other AD services will prove invaluable to large enterprise networks. (For details about NT 5.0, see Mark Minasi, "NT 5.0 Gets Better and Better—Mostly," December 1997. For details about ADSI, see Sakari Kouti, "Manage Directory Resources with Active Directory Service Interfaces," November 1997.)

NT 5.0 also introduces multiple logon protocols. For the first time, Kerberos will be a security option. In addition, you can use the NT LAN Manager authentication system, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and Internet authentication. NT's security options are clearly expanding.

I am enthusiastic about NT 5.0. It has something for everyone. Workstation users will appreciate such features as ATM support and desktop faxing. Administrators will appreciate such improvements as multimaster replication and ADSI.

Windows NT 5.0
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com

Mark Joseph Edwards
NT News Network

Pick for '97:
RealSecure

In 1997, security became an important issue because of the Internet's popularity. Vendors designed a variety of new security products to protect NT. One product stands above the rest: Internet Security Systems' RealSecure.

Although firewalls are necessary, they can be less than adequate in protecting your network. Most inadequacies result from operator error and malicious and accidental misconfiguration. So how do you prevent such inadequacies in your network? A security administrator can check your firewall configuration every few minutes, or you can monitor the network in realtime around the clock, shutting down any unwanted connections. Unfortunately, both measures are expensive and tedious.

RealSecure offers a better solution. RealSecure is a network security administrator that enforces corporate policy. But unlike its human counterpart, this administrator never goes on break, never leaves work, and never calls in sick. Once you launch RealSecure, it's always on the job.

RealSecure progressively monitors all network traffic and responds to that traffic according to your configurations. For example, suppose your firewall policies dictate that no one can use inbound Telnet sessions. If someone launches a Telnet session in your network, RealSecure shuts down that session immediately and permanently—if you've configured it to do so. The same holds true for any other type of network traffic. The software operates much like a network packet sniffer, but it can also act on the TCP/IP session packets that it captures.

RealSecure understands how to detect and stop all the known NT-related security exploits. Plus, as the Telnet example shows, you can configure customized applications. The software can also record an entire TCP/IP session for use later as evidence or to reconstruct a particular attack attempt.

RealSecure provides a check-and-balance security system that everyone needs. It strictly enforces corporate policy from inside the firewall. I've seen no other software that has the power and abilities of RealSecure.

RealSecure
Internet Security Systems · 770-395-0150
Web: http://www.iss.net


Prediction for '98:
Active Directory

With the release of NT 5.0, AD will become one of the most significant and welcomed changes to NT in its history. Directory services are a much-needed addition to NT. Although other directory services are available from third-party vendors, they all have shortcomings. I expect to find shortcomings in AD (at least in its early stages), but AD is a Microsoft product, which means good integration and quick response to consumers' complaints. Microsoft will respond quickly to problems because AD is key to getting NT 5.0 inside heterogeneous enterprise networks. If Microsoft doesn't fix shortcomings quickly, NT 5.0's market share will suffer.

AD will change the way you manage your network. AD uses new technologies to structure domains, allocate and share resources, secure the enterprise network, and connect with non-NT resources, such as those on UNIX systems. (For details about AD, see Mark Minasi's November and December 1997, January 1998, and next month's Inside Out columns.)

Microsoft is not only using AD in NT 5.0, but the company is letting hardware vendors integrate AD features directly into their networking hardware. For example, Cisco Systems will integrate AD into its routers, the first of which the company expects to release in 1998. The benefits of having AD offloaded from the NT system include less burden on your servers, easier and quicker authentication, and better bandwidth utilization.

Once Microsoft releases NT 5.0, AD will become a mandatory part of your environment. AD is available as an add-on for NT 4.0 now, and there's no time like the present to begin experiencing the future!

Active Directory
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/ntserver/info/activedirectory.htm

T.J. Harty
WebDev

Pick for '97 & Prediction for '98:
Cold Fusion 3.1

To create and serve the Windows NT Magazine Web site, I have used several Allaire products over the years, but my favorite product is the Cold Fusion Application Server 3.1.

I wrote a brief review of Cold Fusion 2.0's abilities ("The FAQs of Web Forums," December 1996). Allaire has made significant changes and enhancements in Cold Fusion since then. What I can do with Cold Fusion 3.1 is unbelievable—and I'm using only about 75 percent of its features. You probably won't need every feature Cold Fusion 3.1 offers, but having those features available when you do need them is nice. Cold Fusion 3.1's key attributes include the following four features.

Page scheduling. The Cold Fusion Administrator's scheduling facility lets you schedule the execution of Cold Fusion pages and generate static HTML pages. Page scheduling is great for a page that must remain dynamic, but has content that changes only every few hours. Take our home page. It is dynamic because it draws information from a database. However, the information doesn't change every minute, and no parameters pass that require the page to vary. I can schedule Cold Fusion to run the Cold Fusion page, save it as an HTML-only page that doesn't require a SQL Server request, and serve up that page.

Custom tags. Custom tags let you extend the functionality of Web pages. You can drop a custom tag into a Cold Fusion page to add animation or call a third-party application. Allaire offers a Custom Tag Gallery at http://www.allaire.com/taggallery, where you can download tags that are available as freeware, shareware, and commercial software. Also, you can create custom tags with Cold Fusion Markup Language (CFML), HTML, C++ custom tag (CFX) for Cold Fusion API, or other client-side technologies.

Text indexing and searching. Cold Fusion 3.1 supports indexing of textual data stored in relational databases and standard text and document files. I recently discovered the power of textual data indexing. I split the Windows NT Magazine Web site's content between static and dynamic sources. With this feature, I can index all the content and make the index available to users in one place.

Caching. Cold Fusion 3.1 offers page and database connection caching. In page caching, Cold Fusion caches pages into the memory across multiple user requests, giving you a noticeable performance advantage. In database connection caching, Cold Fusion caches and pools database connections for use across multiple client requests. Database connection caching improves a Web site's performance by eliminating Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) connection times and by having multiple page requests share the same connection.

Allaire offers the Cold Fusion Application Server 3.1 as a standalone product or in a package with Cold Fusion Studio 3.1, a visual development tool for Cold Fusion. You can think of Cold Fusion Studio as a Microsoft Visual InterDev Lite product for your Cold Fusion machine.

You can find less expensive ways to get your data online, but none are better than Cold Fusion. Cold Fusion 3.1 has made Web site development easier, faster, and more intuitive than any other software I've seen.

Cold Fusion Application Server 3.1
Allaire · 617-761-2100 or 888-939-2545
Web: http://www.allaire.com
Email: info@allaire.com

Mark Minasi
Inside Out & This Old Resource Kit

Pick for '97 & Prediction for '98:
Enterprise Administrator

NT was born in the late '80s, in the closing years of the Cold War. Security was important (many government agencies were facing mandates to buy secure operating systems) but difficult to find, at least in the desktop. Most out-of-the-box UNIX implementations didn't have much in the way of security. In fact, using "DOS" and "secure" in the same sentence was laughable. As for Macintosh, Apple put more effort in making you feel secure than in securing your data.

The US government developed C2, a minimum standard for operating system security, and asked its agencies to adhere to this standard when procuring future operating systems. C2 became a magic phrase for software sellers.

Against that backdrop, it's no wonder that NT grew up with a requirement for C2 security. Sadly, although NT generally meets the C2 specifications, its security and control model falls short of meeting most users' requirements.

In the NT world, two types of user accounts usually exist: regular users, who can't do much of anything, and administrators, who have god-like control over the network. If you want to let Sid in the Cleveland office fix anything that might go wrong with that office's machines, you have to make Sid an administrator for those machines. But if you've built your entire enterprise on one domain, making Sid an administrator for the Cleveland machines means that you've also made him an administrator on all the domain's NT machines. So, if Sid's feeling bored one evening and decides to pop onto the WAN and poke around some resources in the New York office, you can't do much to prevent his snooping.

Most companies address the potential problem of gods running amok in one of three ways: They don't use NT, they hope that their administrators are honest, or they create multiple domains. In Sid's case, the company can create two separate domains (one named New York and another named Cleveland) so that Sid is an administrator only in the Cleveland office. But creating two domains requires you to set up trust relationships between the domains, which is not only a pain, but also unreliable.

Mission Critical Software's Enterprise Administrator (EA) provides a better solution to this problem. (For the Windows NT Magazine Lab's review of this software, see "Enterprise Administrator 4.0," May 1997.) Rather than try to fix NT's security shortcomings, EA just bypasses them altogether by bolting its security system on top of NT's security system. In other words, EA acts as a security proxy server.

In the standard NT world, administrators have complete authority over entire domains. Under EA, you divide a domain into smaller groups called territories. You determine how much or how little control administrators have over those territories. In other words, you turn a god into a demigod.

EA refers to enterprisewide administrators as marshals. Marshals have the power to create territories and, well, deputize deputies (i.e., administrators). Marshals can fine-tune how much deputies can do by adjusting their powers (i.e., rights).

Marshals and deputies are powerful from only EA's viewpoint. If Joe is a marshal who tries to flex his marshal muscles in User Manager or Server Manager, those applications will just laugh at him. From NT's viewpoint, Joe is just a user. Only in EA can Joe exert powers that are far beyond those of ordinary users.

Fortunately, marshals and deputies don't have to use NT's potpourri of administration tools. Mission Critical has amalgamated all the administration tools into one user interface. However, when you set up master and resource domains, you must go through a tiresome process of going to every machine in the resource domain and adding the master domain's Domain Users group to that machine's local Users group. You also must add the master domain's Domain Admins to each machine's local Administrators group. Despite this tiresome task, EA is a godsend. If you've got a big NT network, you need EA.

Enterprise Administrator
Mission Critical Software · 713-548-1700 or 800-814-9130
Web: http://www.missioncritical.com
Email: info@missioncritical.com

Brian Moran
SQL Server Source

Pick for '97:
OLE DB

I'm a database geek and a lifetime member of the Bill G. fan club, so my selection of Microsoft's OLE DB won't be a surprise to those who know me. OLE DB is about to become the dominant data access mechanism in the world. This domination won't happen overnight, but it's inevitable because Windows is the primary desktop in corporate America.

OLE DB is the heart of Microsoft's solution to a common problem that application developers face. ODBC lets developers easily access relational databases, but relational databases don't always contain the important data. Such data exists in mail systems, spreadsheets, and other data stores, forcing developers to use a hodgepodge of programming models and techniques.

Many database vendors (including Oracle, Informix, and IBM) are creating universal servers to solve the problems associated with accessing mixed data. Universal servers work by sticking everything plus the kitchen sink in the database.

Instead of building a universal server, Microsoft is developing an alternative solution called Universal Data Access. The concept behind Universal Data Access is that you leave the data where it is and let OLE DB find a way to access it. OLE DB is middleware technology that accesses multiple data types from the same API. With OLE DB, developers can access any back-end data source, whether it's audio, video, full text, messaging, or relational (as long as someone has written an OLE DB provider).

If you start with Universal Data Access components, add Microsoft Transaction Server's object request broker and transaction-processing monitoring capabilities, and throw in the intelligent OLE DB-based query processor that will be in SQL Server 7.0, you've cooked up an elegant implementation of an object relational database. And OLE DB is the key ingredient in that recipe.

OLE DB
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/data


Prediction for '98:
Sphinx

Many people, including me, believe that SQL Server 7.0 (code-named Sphinx) will catapult Microsoft into the dominant number-two position in the relational database management system (RDBMS) market. Microsoft isn't about to overthrow Oracle as king of the market any time soon, but recent missteps by Informix and Sybase have left the door wide open for Sphinx to become Oracle's main competitor. Because the RDBMS market is worth billions of dollars, Microsoft will reap huge financial rewards if SQL Server running on NT becomes the data-center server of choice. Count on the fact that Microsoft will pump a lot of money into marketing SQL Server to ensure that you think it's one of the most important technologies available.

Sphinx is a huge upgrade for SQL Server. Microsoft is replacing the legacy Sybase code with an entirely new architecture. Sphinx is more like a first release because Microsoft is rewriting everything. But don't worry—everyone knows that a first release from Microsoft never has bugs! Seriously, you might want to wait for the first or second service pack, but Sphinx will definitely be worth the wait.

Several of Sphinx's new features will help Microsoft take a giant step toward becoming a major player in data warehousing. Those new features include OLE DB for online analytical processing (OLAP), an OLAP API; a separate Multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP) engine; support for terabyte-sized databases; improved query parallelization; and advanced support for complex data transformation.

Sphinx will support full row-level locking through dynamic locking. New programming support and tighter integration with Microsoft Transaction Server will let you build more complex server-side components. Sphinx will support Windows 95, which will be a huge boon for mobile users and anyone who's ever had to upsize an Access database to SQL Server. In addition, Sphinx's revamped replication model supports updates at multiple locations, mobile replication for Win95 SQL Server users, and replication of stored procedures and other server-side objects.

Several new features will make SQL Server easier to use. More than 25 new wizards make complex tasks (such as index planning and server tuning) a breeze. Sphinx will even include a natural language query parser that lets you submit queries in English.

I haven't even scratched the surface when it comes to new features in Sphinx. Whether you're a current fan of SQL Server or not, Sphinx will change the way you look at SQL Server. This upgrade will let Microsoft stand toe to toe with the big boys in the database world. It also gives Microsoft-centric database professionals a cool new toy to play with.

Sphinx
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com

Michael Otey
VB Solutions

Pick for '97:
Visual Basic 5.0 Enterprise Edition

For me, picking an influential product for 1997 was easy. Visual Basic (VB) 5.0 Enterprise Edition is the hands-down winner. It includes many important fundamental enhancements; the most significant is the ability to create ActiveX controls. With VB 5.0, you can create Web-based applications and build reusable ActiveX components, which previously required Visual C++.

Another significant enhancement is VB 5.0's ability to generate and optimize native code. VB 5.0 now uses the same two-pass compiler as Visual C++. The resulting executables perform operations such as math functions and screen I/O much quicker than any previous version of VB.

VB 5.0's new data access improvements are made possible by DAODirect and RDO 2.0. DAODirect provides access to ODBC data sources without the overhead of the Jet Engine. RDO 2.0 offers improved performance and more flexible cursor control.

Not all the enhancements to VB 5.0 are beneath the surface. VB 5.0's new IDE can now work with multiple projects and provide interactive function prompting. VB 5.0 also has nifty new Internet controls, such as a Winsock ActiveX control that you can use to build TCP/IP applications. With these and the many other enhancements, version 5.0 is probably the most significant release of VB ever. (For more information, see Keith Pleas, "A Quick Tour of Visual Basic 5.0," September 1997.)

Visual Basic 5.0 Enterprise Edition
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/products/prodref/194_ov.htm


Prediction for '98:
Windows NT 5.0

Predicting influential products for this year is tough because of the industry's rapid rate of change. However, NT 5.0 is a pretty safe bet. NT 5.0's significance is clear, so the real question is its release date. With the first beta released in September 1997, NT 5.0 appears to be on target for general release about mid-summer this year.

Michael D. Reilly
Getting Started with NT

Pick for '97 & Prediction for '98:
Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW)

Companies introduced many excellent products in 1997, but excellence alone does not guarantee a significant effect on computing. For this reason, I selected an influential concept rather than a product.

Microsoft's ZAW initiative is a series of ideas and products designed to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of personal computers in a business environment. The total cost of equipping employees with a computer includes not only the cost of the hardware and software, but also the costs of training, support, troubleshooting, and ongoing upgrades. You must also factor in the loss in productivity as employees attempt to resolve problems, often calling on and disrupting co-workers.

Reducing costs is a worthwhile goal, but the threat of the Network Computer (NC) is a principal reason for Microsoft's and other vendors' emphasis on minimizing the cost of owning, operating, maintaining, and upgrading personal computers. The trick is to separate reality from vendors' marketing hype.

The concept behind ZAW is that you can significantly reduce the TCO by making a central support staff responsible for installing, configuring, and controlling operating systems and software. Thus, everyone's computer works the same way (which is no small task with packages such as Office 97). If you have a central support staff, users no longer must know how to install or configure software. Because users don't install or configure their software, they cannot unintentionally mess up their computers, possibly saving hours of support time.

ZAW tools include NT 5.0's IntelliMirror, which caches configuration information and data. (NT 4.0 and Win95 have roaming profiles, but the profiles are only for system settings, not for application configuration.) IntelliMirror caches your configuration information on a server. As a result, you can log on to a different computer on the network and still have your desktop and applications. With IntelliMirror, you can think of the hard disk as a persistent cache for applications. If you have a system failure or a disk crash, you can restore the entire configuration rapidly with minimal effort. When a new application or application version becomes available, you can automatically download it from the server. You can also remove seldom-used applications from the local disk. If you need an application that you removed, you can just download it from the server.

ZAW technology promises additional benefits, including NT 5.0's much-improved power management. With NT 5.0's power management, you can put your computer in at least two low-power modes (standby and hibernate), likely resulting in real savings.

The ZAW initiative calls for more remote diagnostic and repair capabilities in the Help desk. Remotely diagnosing and, more important, correcting problems over the network will reduce the amount of time support staff members spend running around. Although remote diagnostic and repair capabilities already exist in the recently released Systems Management Server (SMS) upgrade, Microsoft will expand those capabilities in NT 5.0 and probably in Windows 98.

Taking full advantage of ZAW will require some changes in the way you use computers. But what you gain more than offsets the inconvenience of learning new systems and procedures. You will finally spend more time getting work done and less time configuring and supporting increasingly complex hardware and software. (For details, see Mark Minasi, "Zero Administration for Windows," December 1997.)

Zero Administration for Windows
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/zaw

Mark Russinovich
NT Internals

Pick for '97:
OctopusHA+

Clustering has been a hot topic in the NT world in 1997, with Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS—formerly Wolfpack) leading the media blitz. However, much of MSCS's promised functionality is available in other products. In fact, one clustering solution performs the same functions as MSCS, but comes with added powerful, high-availability capabilities. Even better, unlike MSCS, this clustering solution doesn't require specialized hardware support. This solution is OctopusHA+ (formerly Octopus SASO 2.0) from Octopus Technologies, a division of the Qualix Group.

OctopusHA+ is a software-only clustering solution that comes with data mirroring capabilities. Its data replication facilities are impressive and flexible: You can mirror files and directories from one system to another, from one system to many, and from many systems to one. The name Octopus is appropriate because, as an octopus can spread its tentacles in any direction, this software can spread your data across your entire NT LAN.

OctopusHA+ works with any NT network protocol, and you don't have to purchase additional hardware or software. Within minutes after installing the software, you can be mirroring critical data.

Mirroring is only part of the OctopusHA+ package. Its clustering component, Super Automatic Switch Over (SASO), works across any protocol. You can use SASO in either an active/standby or active/active configuration. In active/active clustering, the backup machine takes over the identity of the failed primary machine (including the primary machine's IP address) while continuing to run its applications and maintain its identify. Failovers in OctopusHA+ are reliable and fast, usually taking less than 30 seconds. (For a review, see Carlos Bernal, "Octopus SASO 2.0," June 1997.)

OctopusHA+ earns my respect because it's a unique offering in a product area that is quickly becoming cluttered with me-too solutions. The fact that you get both reliable data mirroring and clustering in one box and that you can use OctopusHA+ with your existing networks and hardware make it a leader in this product area.

OctopusHA+
Octopus Technologies · 800-245-8649 or 650-572-0200
Web: http://www.octopustech.com
Email: info@qualix.com


Prediction for '98:
Microsoft Windows-based Terminal Server (Hydra)

Microsoft's multiuser NT technology, Microsoft Windows-based Terminal Server (formerly code-named Hydra), will fill in a piece in the NT puzzle that has been painfully missing since NT's inception: the ability for thin clients to take advantage of NT Server's horsepower. With Terminal Server, you can connect old Intel 286 and 386 processor machines to a powerful server so that you can run applications that you couldn't otherwise run from the 286 and 386 machines. Big applications (such as Microsoft Word) and database front ends are examples of programs that underpowered systems will be able to access with Terminal Server. (A successful use of legacy hardware with Citrix is shown in "UARCO Gets Thin," November 1997.)

Terminal Server isn't a new idea for NT. Microsoft licensed thin-client technology from two multiuser NT vendors: Citrix and Prologue. However, Citrix and Prologue were stuck with NT 3.51-only solutions because Microsoft didn't renew their source license for NT 4.0. (Vendors must have a license to update their products to new versions of NT.) Microsoft will keep Terminal Server current with future releases of NT. (For more information about Terminal Server, see Mark Smith, "Thin Is In," September 1997.)

Terminal Server is an influential development for NT because Microsoft is providing base operating system support for multiple users. Microsoft is also loudly refuting the claim that using Windows-only systems doesn't lower TCO. Terminal Server is heading Microsoft's posse, which hopes to cut off NCs at the pass. More important, Terminal Server will play an integral part in Microsoft's unwavering attack on Java in the war to control servers, desktops, and thin clients. Without Terminal Server, the argument that Java should play a role in any NT-centric corporate environment holds weight. But with Terminal Server in place in 1998, that argument falls apart. NT can be everywhere. Java won't die in 1998, but Terminal Server will surely stunt its growth in the marketplace.

Microsoft Windows-based Terminal Server (Hydra)
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/ntserver/info/hydra.htm

Karen Watterson
SQL Server Source

Pick for '97:
Unicenter TNG for NT

For SQL Server customers, 1997 was not a year for fireworks. Rather, it was a steady-as-she-goes kind of year. I was hard pressed to come up with an influential product, but I decided Unicenter TNG for NT from Computer Associates (CA) significantly affected the SQL Server community in 1997. (For a review, see Joel Sloss "Unicenter TNG," May 1997.)

Unicenter TNG is helping SQL Server break into nontraditional markets. Two important circumstances surrounded CA's release of Unicenter TNG for NT. First, CA released the NT version before it introduced a UNIX version. Second, Unicenter TNG for NT uses SQL Server as the default repository because the original object database (Jasmine) that CA has licensed from and is co-developing with Fujitsu wasn't ready in time to use as the repository. As a result of these two circumstances, many of CA's Fortune 500 customers got a taste of SQL Server whether they wanted to or not. In other words, Unicenter TNG for NT provided an important foothold for SQL Server in some nontraditional SQL Server organizations.

Unicenter TNG for NT uses SQL Server as the repository. The cost-free Unicenter TNG Framework uses a version of CA's OpenIngres as the repository. (CA used OpenIngres to avoid paying Microsoft license fees for SQL Server.) But customers upgrading to Unicenter TNG for NT can migrate their data to SQL Server without much pain.

Not everyone will share my enthusiasm for CA's Unicenter TNG for NT, so I want to mention two other companies that offer influential products: CAST Software (http://www.castsoftware.com) and Cyrano (http://www.cyrano.com). CAST Software sells a half dozen products (including a client parser utility for keeping track of front-end client code that runs against the engine) that constitute the most comprehensive workbench for SQL Server developers. Cyrano offers automated software quality tools for testing software.

Unicenter TNG for NT
Computer Associates · 516-342-5224
Web: http://www.cai.com
Email: info@cai.com


Prediction for '98:
Plato

Microsoft's new OLAP server (code-named Plato) will influence the SQL Server community in 1998. OLAP refers to a broad range of tools and activities related to decision support. OLAP provides multidimensional views of data. Decision makers can either drill down into the details or aggregate the data to see the big picture. For example, to get the details about sales data for a national chain of sporting goods stores, you can first break down sales over time by stores and then drill down even further by looking at sales over time by product lines in those stores. To get the big picture, you can aggregate the stores into their appropriate regions and plot the sales by region in a chart.

Microsoft hasn't released much information about Plato yet. No one even knows whether Microsoft will bundle the OLAP server with SQL Server 7.0 or sell it as a standalone product the way Oracle (Express), Informix (MetaCube), and IBM (Arbor's rebranded Essbase) do. Nevertheless, Microsoft is busy getting its OLAP ducks in a row. Microsoft has released the OLE DB for OLAP specification, which is a new set of APIs that will ensure universal interoperability between OLAP servers and clients. (For details about this specification, see "Industry Comments Endorsing OLE DB for OLAP," at http://www.microsoft.com/developer/
tech/data/oledb/olap/endorse.htm.)

Plato
Microsoft · 425-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com