During a recent Windows & .NET Magazine Security RoadShow, I joked that Microsoft's enterprise product suite, back when it was called BackOffice, used to be easy to figure out: It consisted of Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Mail, SQL Server, SNA Server, Internet Information Server (IIS), and ... well, that was about all. Today, Microsoft's product roadmap is far more complex. As I noted in the October 8, 2002, issue of Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE (http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=26920), Microsoft's server lineup is so vast and complex that figuring out how to just legally license these products is prohibitively time-consuming. And although the company has since announced plans to consolidate some product lines over time—notably its management servers and e-business servers—figuring out Microsoft's servers isn't going to become any easier in the months ahead. The reason is that this week, the company announced a subset of products it intends to release in 2003. Hold on tight; it's going to get confusing.

Naturally, Microsoft will base most of these new products on Microsoft .NET technologies, which is a first, even though the company has been using the .NET Enterprise Server moniker for more than a year. In fact, we might think of 2003 as the ".NET wave" of Microsoft releases, a generation of XML and .NET-based products that sits between the so-called Windows XP wave and the SQL Server 2003—code-named Yukon—wave. Here are some of the Microsoft products we can look forward to in 2003.

Windows .NET Server 2003
I've been covering Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) 2003 in Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE regularly for a few months and probably will continue to do so throughout 2003, thanks to the variety of new features and capabilities that this vast upgrade to Windows 2000 Server offers. Win.NET Server will ship in a variety of 32- and 64-bit editions in April 2003 and will offer advances in management, Active Directory (AD), scalability and performance, storage, and various other technologies. One interesting tidbit about Win.NET Server that I would have taken with a grain of salt had I not witnessed it on my Web servers, is that Microsoft claims an average 2X performance boost over Win2K Server on the same hardware. If true, this is a first for any Windows upgrade. And then I upgraded my Web servers. I don't have specific figures yet, but the response time after an in-place upgrade is markedly and obviously faster. I'll be looking more at these performance claims in the future.

Visual Studio .NET 2003
Microsoft plans to accompany every new software release wave with an update to Visual Studio .NET, so the .NET wave will include Visual Studio .NET 2003, a minor upgrade that will be available for free to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) customers and for just $30 for everyone else. Shipping in April 2003, Visual Studio .NET 2003 features important improvements to Visual C++ (VC++), including compatibility with the latest ISO specs and Microsoft's Windows Forms technology; support for new Web services standards such as Web Services Security (WS-Security), Web Services Routing Protocol (WS-Routing), and WS-Attachments; and integration with the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, which lets developers target mobile devices based on Windows CE .NET (formerly code-named Talisker) but not on the Palm OS or non-Microsoft cell phone platforms, which is too bad.

SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit)
Although Win.NET Server represents Microsoft's first credible stab at a 64-bit product family, the OS won't be very useful without support servers that take advantage of the underlying platform's extensive RAM and storage capabilities. To this end, the logical starting point is SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition, and the 64-bit version will take advantage of Intel Itanium's massive process-address space to offer in-memory databases that are applicable to large-scale e-commerce, data warehousing, and analytic applications. The 64-bit edition of SQL Server will ship in April 2003.

Microsoft Office 11 and XDocs
Microsoft is working to complete the XML circle, so to speak, by embedding rich XML capabilities into its best-selling client-side solution. This functionality will let IT workers use common Office applications to access, update, and manage back-end server data. The company is also working on a new Office 11 family member called XDocs, which will let IT administrators create simple forms that access that back-end data. Office 11 is due in mid-2003.

SharePoint Team Services 2.0
Also due in mid-2003 as an optional add-on for Office 11, SharePoint Team Services 2.0 will build on the current product's team-oriented collaboration tools, letting IT administrators with no Web site building experience create online collaboration portals for their workers. SharePoint Team Services will be more tightly integrated with Office 11, giving users a SharePoint Document Workspace that's as easy to access as the local file system. Workers can use the tool to share task lists, calendars, discussion lists, and other resources in addition to collaborative documents. Microsoft isn't discussing details yet, but I'm expecting more information about this potentially useful tool soon.

Exchange 2003 Server
Exchange 2003 Server (code-named Titanium) will also ship in mid-2003 and will include tight integration with Win.NET Server and its new AD version. Titanium will support Win.NET Server's new scalability features as well, including up to eight-node clustering on Win.NET Server 2003, Enterprise Edition and Win.NET Server 2003, Datacenter Edition. Titanium will support technologies such as NTT DoCoMo's i-mode, cHTML, and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.0 microbrowsers for anywhere access through mobile devices; a new Outlook Web Access (OWA) version that's almost visually indistinguishable from Outlook 11; intelligent new optimizations for users on low-bandwidth connections; better antispam technologies; and stronger security.

"Greenwich" and MSN Messenger Connect
Once planned as part of Win.NET Server, Microsoft's Real-time Communications (RTC) server is now a separate product that will include a separate Instant Messaging (IM) application. Greenwich is the server product, and MSN Messenger Connect is the client product. These products bring to the table the logging and auditing features enterprises need to embrace IM as a core communications method inhouse. Microsoft says that Greenwich and MSN Messenger Connect will ship in mid-2003.

"Jupiter" E-Business Server
Microsoft will release its consolidated e-business server, code-named Jupiter, in phases over the next few years. In the first phase, due in late 2003, the company will ship a set of technologies that will integrate its current e-business servers, Microsoft BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, and Content Management Server. Then, in 2004, the next-generation e-business server will launch as one product.

These are just a few of the upcoming releases, but I'm out of space. Looking to 2003, I'd like to hear which topics you're most interested in, whether they're on this list or not. Drop me a note at thurrott@winnetmag.com and let me know how we can better serve your needs in the coming year.

Correction
In last week's discussion of new Microsoft management initiatives, I confused a few terms. The Microsoft Systems Architecture (MSA) provides solutions that deal primarily with physical tasks, such as building a datacenter. These solutions are part of the Windows Server team. In parallel with MSA, Microsoft also offers the Microsoft Solutions for Management (MSM), an umbrella term for the five management-related prescriptive architectural blueprints the company offers, with more to follow. Before last week, MSM didn't exist. What changed was that Microsoft announced a new MSA item—the MSA Enterprise Data Center (EDC)—and launched MSM. Sorry if this caused any confusion.