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Windows .NET Server RC1 Ready

Release Candidate 1 of Windows .NET Server is finished and Microsoft will distribute the code to anyone who wants to test it, the company said Wednesday. Shipping RC1, which is feature complete, is a major milestone in Microsoft's process for delivering a finished operating system.

At least one more release candidate is planned before the operating system is Released to Manufacturing (RTM). RTM is projected for late this year with general availability of the server operating system family a few months later in early 2003.

"The point here is that we've actually delivered a product that is very reliable, very stable, that could in many of our customer scenarios could be used in a production environment," says Bob O'Brien, group product manager for Windows .NET Server.

About half of the Microsoft.com Web farm is currently running on Windows .NET servers, with the entire domain expected to be running on the pre-release code by mid-August. Globally, Microsoft has about 1,000 internal servers running Windows .NET Server code in production, O'Brien says. Early deployment partners include JetBlue Airways, SmartPipes Inc. and Avanade Inc., a joint consulting venture between Microsoft and Accenture.

Prior to RC1, authorized testing of Windows .NET Server was limited primarily to members of Microsoft subscription services, such as TechNet and MSDN. "The difference here is that we will move from thousands [of testers] to 100s of thousands of people," O'Brien says.

Microsoft is also opening an engineering center to expand its testing matrix to include specific heterogeneous environments. Customers, such as Chevron-Texaco, will come in and recreate subsets of their real-world configurations, which may include Unix, Linux, RISC-hardware or satellite networks. "It has added tremendously to our ability to deliver a much higher quality product," O'Brien says.

The Windows .NET Server family currently consists of six versions. Windows .NET Web Server and Windows .NET Standard Server are 32-bit-only operating systems. Windows .NET Enterprise Server (the successor to Windows 2000 Advanced Server) and Windows .NET Datacenter Server, will each ship in a 32-bit and a 64-bit version.

From a system requirement point of view, the operating system requires little in the way of additional hardware compared with Windows 2000, except in the case of 64-bit systems. The code base is primarily the same, with the most substantial changes coming in improvements to the Active Directory and the addition of the .NET Framework.

RC1 is light on new features. Microsoft developers integrated UDDI support after the Beta 3 release. More features were taken out since the November Beta 3 release. In May, Microsoft announced that it would be dropping the Session Initiation Protocol and SharePoint Team Services from the server operating system. SIP and SharePoint Team Services will be shipped separately after the general availability of Windows .NET Server.

Don't expect new features in RC2, O'Brien says, but Microsoft should be offering some decisions on open issues. One is whether to limit SMP support to two processors in Windows .NET Standard Server. It would represent a cut from the four-processor support in Windows 2000 Server. The other decision is whether to provide a 64-bit edition of Windows .NET Standard Server.

Analyst Al Gillen with IDC says RC1 is offering the industry an idea of what Windows .NET Server is going to be: "Windows 2000 Release 2."

"They've had 2 1/2 years to find all the bottlenecks, find all the residual problems and you can iron all those things out, which I think they have," Gillen says. "It's not going to be a revolutionary product, but it looks to me like they've got some good stuff in here."

Prime beneficiaries include users with Windows 2000 Domain Controllers, and smaller Windows NT 4.0 shops who dreaded the DNS configuration component of Active Directory.

The availability of RC1 conforms to Microsoft's public timetable for delivering the final product roughly three years after the release of Windows 2000, which required a "summer" delivery of RC1. Microsoft has missed several previous timetables for the server product, formerly known by the Whistler codename and the short-lived title of Windows 2002.

Redmond originally planned to ship the servers in early 2002, a few months after the Windows XP client. That timetable slipped to the second half of 2002, and then Bill Gates dropped his Trustworthy Computing bombshell.

Responding to persistent customer and industry complaints about security in Microsoft products, Gates' Trustworthy Computing e-mail pledged that Microsoft would begin giving security concerns top priority in the development cycle. In an e-mail sent to customers last week, Gates said a Trustworthy Computing-related developer training and code review originally planned to take one month took two months and the initiative has cost the company $100 million.

The Trustworthy Computing initiative has been cited by Microsoft as partially responsible for delaying the Windows .NET Server release into early 2003.

IDC's Gillen says the RC1 timing puts Microsoft in a good position for a late 2002 RTM and early 2003 product release.

"Normally the Release Candidate stage lasts for three months. You've got the opportunity to have two full Release Candidates before RTM," Gillen says. In any case, Microsoft doesn't need to treat the early 2003 date as a hard deadline, Gillen contends. "I don't think customers are feeling the pain waiting for Windows .NET Server that they were feeling waiting for Windows 2000. I don't think the vast majority of their customers are in any kind of hurry. If a delay makes for a better product, I don't think customers are going to complain."

To sign up for the Customer Preview Program and get copies of RC1, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windows.netserver/preview/default.mspx.

History of Windows .NET Server

  • Whistler server discussed by Microsoft after W2K release
  • Whistler Beta 1 ships November 2000
  • Whistler Beta 2 ships April 2001, Windows 2002 name floated
  • Windows .NET Server Beta 3 ships November 2001
  • Early 2002 ship date missed, mid-2002 date floated
  • Gates Trustworthy Computing memo released in January
  • Trustworthy Computing code review in February and March
  • Post-Beta 3 CD distributed to TechEd attendees in April 2002
  • SIP and SharePoint Team Services dropped in May
  • Late 2002 RTM, early 2003 GA dates floated
  • Windows .NET Server RC1 ships July 2002

  • About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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