Microsoft’s Windows 2000 Datacenter Server (Win2K Datacenter), the high-end of the new OS for large enterprises, went into its first beta on September 27. A small mailing of this elite product went out to approximately 300 beta testers. Some analysts predict that Win2K Datacenter will undergo a lengthy testing cycle, but Microsoft estimates that the product will ship 3 to 4 months after the three initial Win2K products ship. Win2K Datacenter will be a bigger, more powerful, more scalable version of Win2K Server. Win2K Datacenter will also be more finicky, with a smaller list of hardware compatibility and a greater need for rigorous hardware driver testing. Microsoft is marketing the OS to large enterprises that have high-performance needs and large dedicated IT staffs. Win2K Datacenter will also be the first version of Windows server technology that will require outside vendors to install the OS on an approved hardware platform into a data center. How much power does Win2K Datacenter deliver compared with other Win2K versions? For starters, the product's SMP capability will let users scale well beyond the commercially available 8-way Intel Profusion boxes that came to market this fall. Whereas Win2K Server will support 4-way SMP systems and Win2K Advanced Server (Win2K AS) will support 8-way SMP systems, Win2K Datacenter will support 32-way SMP boxes. Such boxes will require that OEMs create custom configurations to support this version of the OS. Vendors will also be able to create Win2K Datacenter servers by spanning four 8-way servers. Win2K Server is best for departmental and entry-level server use, and Win2K AS is best for mission-critical enterprise operations such as databases and Web servers. According to Microsoft, Win2K Datacenter is best for "the most demanding levels of availability and scale such as data warehousing, server consolidation, and Online Transaction Processing (OLTP).” Under the Win2K Datacenter beta program, Microsoft will take on a small number of high-end partners, who will pair with eight end-user companies. The partners will supply hardware and software to the customers, who will then test Win2K Datacenter. For example, IBM will supply each end-user company with four Netfinity 5500 machines, Win2K Datacenter, Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS), and an accompanying fibre-channel Storage Area Network (SAN). Win2K Datacenter will include all the features of Win2K AS and the following additional features:

• Integrated 4-node clustering
• A rigorous hardware certification and compatibility test
• A program for full system configurations to ensure that Microsoft has certified the different hardware components to work together
• A Process Control Manager to allocate system resources
• Rolling upgrades that ensure three nodes in the cluster are running while the software updates on the fourth node
• Cluster, Network Load Balancing, and Job Object APIs
• Up to 32-way SMP support
• Up to 32GB of RAM with Physical Address Extension (PAE) support
• Up to 32-node Network Load Balancing
• Winsock Direct for faster I/O performance