Application Center 2000 Beta Program Goes Public
- By Scott Bekker
Microsoft Corp. shed some light on the mysterious product that
is Application Center 2000.
The problem Microsoft (www.microsoft.com)
aims to tackle with the new server software is clear enough: IT administrators
need help deploying and managing their
racks of Web servers and mid-tier application servers.
Microsoft had shared few specifics about Application Center
2000, and the product’s Beta 1 testing cycle reached only about 300 users.
Microsoft broadened its test circle earlier this summer by distributing
evaluation CDs of Beta 1 to 9,600 attendees at the Professional Developers
Conference in Orlando.
Today, Application Center 2000 went into public Beta 2
testing with Microsoft opening the process to anyone who order the CD from the
The main design goal of Application Center 2000 is to make
managing groups of servers running as easy as managing a single computer. The
product consists of a suite of deployment, management, monitoring, and
diagnostic tools. Features include providing a single application image,
application staging and deployment, application synchronization, real-time
performance and health monitoring, and
high availability through clustering.
officials currently expect final code to be available in the fourth quarter.
The product will follow Microsoft’s new per-processing
licensing model. Microsoft will sell Application Center 2000 for $2,999 per
A common model for server management software is
client/server, with a master server distributing agents onto other servers.
Application Center 2000 will instead load completely onto each server in a Web
farm or cluster of application servers.
“By running it on each server, it allows you to get all the
benefits on each server,” says Bob Pulliam, technical product manager for
Application Center 2000.
From a licensing perspective, that model means that an IT
shop using 10 single-processor servers in an application cluster would pay
almost $30,000 for Application Center 2000.
Because the software loads on each machine, the footprint of
the package is an important consideration, Pulliam says. Microsoft has not
settled on a final footprint, although the Beta 2 version will eat up 100 MB of
hard drive space.
Among the growing arsenal of Microsoft clustering
technologies, Application Center supports one form and contains the debut for
another. Network Load Balancing (NLB), previously known as Windows Load
Balancing Service in Windows NT 4.0, is supported for Web server farmers
managed with Application Center 2000. NLB is the technology in Windows 2000
Advanced Server and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server that spreads Internet client
requests across up to 32 servers.
According to Pulliam, that number should not be a limitation
for most IT shops running even large Web farms. “In the studies that we’ve
seen, 90 percent of the Web sites are running on 10 servers or less,” he says.
Even in extremely large sites where there are more servers, they are rarely all
dedicated to one application. “Microsoft.com actually has seven clusters with
approximately seven servers each running sections of the application,” Pulliam
New in Application Center 2000 is Component Load Balancing
(CLB), originally a feature of Windows 2000 COM+ that was pulled out of Windows
2000 and into Application Center when the new server management product was
pre-announced in September 1999.
CLB provides load balancing at the object level, allowing
different application servers to tackle different chunks of an application for
While Microsoft talks about Application Center as being
fault tolerant, the software does not include or manage the back-end failover
clustering found in Microsoft Cluster Services and frequently used in database
and file-serving environment. By fault tolerance in Application Center, Microsoft
means the overall Web farm or application can survive the failure of any
individual server within the cluster. – Scott
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.