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Microsoft Claims Internal Benefits From Windows .NET Server, Titanium

Microsoft corporate vice president and CIO Rick Devenuti is seeing several benefits from an internal early deployment of Windows .NET Server 2003 and expecting others with the Exchange Titanium release.

Devenuti laid out some of those benefits on Wednesday during a keynote for attendees of the MEC 2002 show in Anaheim, Calif. Microsoft's IT group is in an unusual position for an IT department. In addition to the usual priority of a Fortune 500 IT department, which Devenuti describes as "providing a world-class utility," a higher priority for Microsoft's IT group is being Microsoft's first and best customer. (See story)

Internally, Microsoft calls the process "eating its own dogfood," and right now that means using Windows .NET Server 2003, which is supposed to be released to manufacturing by the end of this year, and Exchange Titanium, which is scheduled to arrive in mid-2003.

Windows .NET Server 2003 is currently in the Release Candidate stage. With the internal IT group starting software deployments early in the beta cycle, Microsoft's deployment of the Release Candidate version of Windows .NET Server 2003 is naturally fairly advanced.

According to Devenuti, 1,400 servers are running Windows .NET Server 2003 Release Candidate 1. All of Microsoft's Domain Controllers are on Windows .NET Server 2003 RC1, and two Domain Controllers are running 64-bit versions of Windows .NET Server 2003.

Microsoft moved thirteen major line-of-business applications to RC1, including Microsoft's worldwide SAP installation, Microsoft.com and the MS Sales application.

Devenuti says some of the greatest advantages of Windows .NET Server 2003 have come from flipping the switch to forest functional mode using Windows .NET Server 2003. The decision has saved IT time in two ways. For one, Microsoft can now use the Knowledge Consistency Checker, a feature in Windows 2000 Active Directory that was capped at 200 sites. With 450 sites, Microsoft employees had to manually examine the topologies to map appropriate replication sites for Domain Controllers. Now it is automatic. Another time saver from the switch to forest functional mode is the availability of Cross-Forest Trust, which eliminates a lot of staff time spent on managing trust relationships.

Microsoft is also seeing some benefits from Active Directory generally in Windows .NET Server 2003. Devenuti says the new feature allowing Active Directory to be restored from media has allowed Microsoft to go from two domain controllers to one at remote sites. Additionally, Microsoft has renamed 90 percent of its global Domain Controllers to more logical and consistent names that tell remote administrators more about the system and its role at a site.

Microsoft IT group doesn't have a lot of internal experience with the Titanium release of Exchange yet. The company just moved the next-generation e-mail server from an internal Forest managed by the Exchange team to its Windeploy test forest with about 6,000 users this week.

But Devenuti did list some specific gains he expected to reap from a Titanium deployment at Microsoft, primarily in the area of incremental server consolidation.

"We get most of our server consolidation with Exchange 2000," Devenuti says. But he expects to be able to push the number of users per server from about 3,000 on Exchange 2000 to 5,000 on Titanium. Additionally, a feature of the combination of Titanium and Office 11 is local caching that allows Office 11 Outlook clients to always have access to e-mail whether the server is responding or not. Combined with reductions in the amount of over-the-wire traffic sent by Titanium, the moves should allow Microsoft to reduce its server count further.

"That's going to allow us to reduce the number of servers we have out in the field by moving those users into our Regional Data Centers," Devenuti says.

About the Author

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

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