Redmond enters the enterprise arena

The driving force behind Microsoft's new .NET strategy is the company's transition from a small to midsized departmental technology provider to a provider of full-fledged enterprise software and technology. The Microsoft BackOffice products have been characterized as easy-to-use products that fit well into the departmental niche but lack the scalability and interoperability required to scale into the enterprise arena. Microsoft designed its new line of .NET Enterprise Servers to change this perception. In the past year, Microsoft has revitalized its entire group of server products. You'll recognize most of the .NET Enterprise Servers as the latest versions of established BackOffice products, but others are brand new. Figure 1, page 30, presents the evolution of the various BackOffice products to their new .NET Enterprise Server incarnations. (You can find more information about Microsoft's .NET Enterprise Servers at http://www.microsoft.com/servers.)

Application Center 2000
The most recently released member of the .NET Enterprise Server family, Application Center 2000, is a different animal from the other members. Application Center doesn't provide any standalone functionality that adds new capabilities to your enterprise. Instead, Microsoft designed Application Center to manage the software components that make up your n-tier Web applications. You can use this product to manage software components developed inhouse or from third-party vendors. Application Center provides one management image for the cluster as well as tools to deploy and load-balance COM+ components. This product requires that Windows 2000 and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS 5.0) be installed.

Microsoft offers only one edition of Application Center and licenses it per CPU. The Application Center 2000 license includes support for an unlimited number of users from inside or outside the firewall. Released to manufacturing in February 2001, Application Center is still too new for Microsoft to have discussed any service packs or subsequent releases.

BizTalk Server 2000
Designed to enable business-to-business (B2B) application integration, BizTalk Server is a new addition to Microsoft's server-product family. BizTalk Server 2000 lets companies build business processes that use XML to extend their applications across the Internet to their business partners. In addition to support for XML transfers, BizTalk Server uses the ANSI X.12 or EDIFACT standards to support fax, email, and EDI data exchanges. The server's Orchestration Designer lets you visually design the information process flow that BizTalk Server will use to control the flow of information between business partners. BizTalk Server requires Win2K Server and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 7.0. Additionally, to use the Orchestration Designer, you must have Microsoft Visio 2000 installed.

Microsoft offers two versions of BizTalk Server: Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition. Standard Edition is for small to midsized businesses and supports integration with as many as five applications and five external trading partners. Standard Edition is limited to a standalone single-CPU system. Enterprise Edition offers support for an unlimited number of applications and trading partners and for SMP systems and clustered deployments.

Microsoft released this product to manufacturing in December 2000 and hasn't yet announced any service packs or new releases. Third-party vendors, however, have announced BizTalk Server­integrated products, such as Compaq's Compaq iOrchestrator.

Commerce Server 2000
Commerce Server 2000 is a Web-development platform that lets you build e-commerce Web applications. Commerce Server replaces the earlier Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition. Commerce Server provides all the tools, metrics, and functions required to build an e-commerce Web site. Microsoft designed it for tight integration with the other .NET Enterprise Server products such as SQL Server 2000, Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000, and BizTalk Server. Commerce Server requires Win2K and SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 7.0.

You can purchase Standard Edition or Developer Edition. Microsoft licenses Standard Edition per processor, and you can install it on multiple machines. You can install Developer Edition on multiple servers, and it allows an unlimited number of connections. However, Microsoft licenses Developer Edition only for development purposes, so you can't use it for a production Web site.

Microsoft released Commerce Server to manufacturing in November 2000. The company hasn't yet announced any service packs or follow-up releases.

Exchange 2000 Server
Email has been dubbed the killer Internet application, and Microsoft Exchange Server is the most widely used email platform. Exchange 2000 Server was the first BackOffice product to require the use of Win2K and features tight integration with Win2K Active Directory (AD). Since its initial release as a basic email server, Exchange Server has consistently offered expanded functionality. The latest Exchange release adds support for the new Web Storage System (WSS), conferencing, and instant messaging to its established email and workgroup capabilities.

Exchange Server is available in three editions: Exchange 2000 Server, Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server, and Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server. In addition to the feature set that the standard Exchange 2000 Server provides, Enterprise Server supports active/active clustering and distributed services for high-end reliability and scalability. Microsoft designed Conferencing Server explicitly to manage voice, data, and videoconferencing across multiple locations in your enterprise network or across the Internet.

The second service pack for Exchange 2000 is scheduled for release in the second half of 2001. A future release of Exchange, which is still on the drawing board, is expected to utilize the SQL Server database engine instead of the current Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) database engine that is based on the Microsoft Access Joint Engine Technology (JET) engine database technology.

Host Integration Server 2000
Originally designed to provide integration to IBM hosts through SNA networks, Host Integration Server (HIS) 2000 is essentially the latest version of Microsoft's BackOffice IBM host-integration product, SNA Server 4.0. Although Microsoft changed the product's name in an attempt to distance the product from its SNA roots, the HIS feature set lacks any UNIX connectivity options and still revolves around IBM mainframe and AS/400 connectivity. HIS supports host connectivity through both SNA and TCP/IP. Probably the most important new feature in HIS is its bidirectional transactional-database replication with Oracle—a feature that, arguably, would fit better in SQL Server. In contrast to most of the .NET Enterprise Server products, you can run HIS on both Win2K and Windows NT 4.0. Microsoft offers only one version of HIS and licenses the product per processor.

Released in September 2000, HIS is a stable, mature product that isn't likely to be significantly updated in the near term. At the time of this writing, Microsoft hasn't announced any service packs for HIS.

ISA Server 2000
Microsoft designed ISA Server 2000 to securely integrate your internal networks with the Internet. ISA Server embodies a massive update to the earlier Proxy Server 2.0 product. Similar to Proxy Server, ISA Server provides caching support to increase Web clients' performance. However, ISA Server provides vastly improved caching performance, a new firewall feature, and a unified management console that take it far beyond where Proxy Server leaves off. ISA Server requires Win2K Server.

Microsoft offers both a standard and enterprise edition of ISA Server. The firewall and caching features of both versions are essentially the same. However, in addition to the feature set that Standard Edition provides, Enterprise Edition includes multiple-system support, centralized-management capabilities, and support for systems that have more than four CPUs.

Barely making the 2000 time frame, Microsoft released ISA Server to manufacturing in December 2000. Don't expect any product updates or service packs in the near term.

Mobile Information 2001 Server
Another new addition to the Microsoft server product family, Mobile Information 2001 Server is a key component in Microsoft's .NET strategy to incorporate mo-bile devices into the .NET framework. Mobile Information Server will support connectivity for Wireless Access Protocol (WAP)­enabled microbrowsers. This product lets roaming WAP devices access in realtime enterprise resources such as SQL Server databases and Exchange Server email services. As you might expect, Mobile Information Server requires Win2K Server.

Microsoft has stated that it will provide two versions of Mobile Information Server: Enterprise Edition and Carrier Edition. Microsoft designed Enterprise Edition for enterprise customers and Carrier Edition for mobile service providers. Both editions have essentially the same components and can work together or independently. However, Carrier Edition also provides a Short Message Service (SMS) connector, which allows direct SMS message delivery so that you can avoid SMTP transfers.

Microsoft released the first beta of Mobile Information Server in December 2000. At the time of this writing, the product is still in beta, and Microsoft hasn't announced the final release date. The product is expected to be available in mid 2001.

SharePoint Portal Server 2001
Previously code-named Tahoe, SharePoint Portal Server 2001 is another new addition to the Microsoft server product line. SharePoint Portal Server is a document-management server that Microsoft designed to integrate with Exchange 2000, Microsoft Office 2000, and IIS to facilitate Web-based document sharing and workflow integration. SharePoint Portal Server provides document-management and search capabilities and a customizable portal solution that lets you build Web-based facilities for locating and sharing enterprise information. SharePoint Portal Server works with Win2K Server Service Pack 1 (SP1) and requires that IIS 5.0 be installed.

Currently, only one edition of SharePoint Server is available, and Microsoft licenses it per processor. Microsoft made SharePoint Portal Server Release Candidate 1 (RC1) available in January 2001 and is expected to release the final version in the first half of 2001.

SQL Server 2000
SQL Server 2000 is Microsoft's premier relational-database product. Building on the substantial architectural enhancements that marked the release of SQL Server 7.0, SQL Server 2000 includes core relational-database enhancements, such as cascading Declarative Referential Integrity (DRI), and new XML integration and massive scalability through its distributed partitioned views mechanism. SQL Server 2000 runs on Win2K Server and NT Server 4.0. The recent release of SQL Server for Windows CE and the upcoming SQL Server version that offers 64-bit support (i.e., it runs on Windows XP) gives SQL Server 2000 the widest scalability range of any competitive database product.

Microsoft offers SQL Server 2000 in five versions: Developer Edition, Personal Edition, Standard Edition, and Enterprise Edition, which all share a common code base, and SQL Server for Windows CE, which uses a different code base that allows for a more compact footprint. You can install Developer Edition on only one system, and it allows a maximum of five licensed users. You can purchase Personal Edition as part of the Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition, but you can't purchase it separately. Microsoft designed Personal Edition to bring SQL Server functionality to nonserver environments. Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition are primarily business-server versions. In addition to the functionality that Standard Edition provides, Enterprise Edition includes support for enterprise-oriented features such as 4-node failover clusters and distributed partitioned views. Microsoft also offers the Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), which the company optimized for single-user implementations. MSDE is freely redistributable and includes all the SQL Server editions (except the Windows CE version) as well as Visual Studio (VS) 6.0.

SQL Server's relational-database engine makes it the core technology in the .NET framework. The next release of SQL Server, code-named Yukon, isn't expected within 2001. This release will be important because it's supposed to add heterogeneous-language support through .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR) integration as well as single point of management control over scale-out databases that use distributed partitioned views for their implementation.

Enter the Enterprise Arena
The .NET Enterprise Servers form the backbone of Microsoft's .NET Framework by providing the underlying services that make your enterprise's resources available to your internal networks and across the Web. Microsoft designed the new family of .NET Enterprise Servers with enterprise scalability and reliability in mind and the goal of bringing Microsoft technology into the highest levels of the enterprise.