By Matthew Southwell
Microsoft is set to unveil its first new server OS for three years with the introduction of Windows Server 2003. Touted as easier to manage and more feature, the vendor is confident that local uptake will be rapid.
|~||~||~|Microsoft is set to unveil its first new server operating system (OS) for three years with the introduction of Windows Server 2003 on April 24. Touted as easier to manage and more feature rich than its predecessors, the vendor is confident that local uptake will be rapid, especially among current users of NT 4, who account for approximately 15% of the worldwide installed Windows base.“NT 4 server was released in 1996, so it is an old operating system by any description. If you look at the past eight years, a lot of new technologies have emerged that the [NT 4] operating system does not incorporate. This is why users will upgrade to Windows Server 2003,” says Haider Salloum, marketing manager, South Gulf, Microsoft.The key technologically difference between Windows Server 2003 and NT 4 is that it is built on the .Net platform, which allows companies to quickly develop XML-based web services. This process is facilitated by a number of features, such as a web services toolbox and default .xml file types. By utilising the web services tools in the OS, Microsoft contends that companies will be able to give new life to old applications without needing to overhaul either the code they are written in or the hardware they sit on. Instead, by using Windows Server 2003, companies will be able to create XML-web services at the application server level.“[Companies] want to offer users the power to utilise the content and information that is available in [legacy] applications. To do that, they can put Windows Server 2003 in the middle [between the hardware and the application] and take the data in an XML web service and expose it to users,” explains Salloum.“This is where the XML web services power becomes a very interesting idea… because it creates a new dimension of value for what you had before by using some of the new technology. We think this will give a lot of companies a better return on investments that they have already made,” he continues.Alongside these web services tools, Windows Server 2003 also offers over 200 other improved management features. For instance, when used on a file and print server, the OS allows administrators to allocate disc quota on a per user basis, which will limit storage demands on the server. There is also a tool that automates the replication of files across a network, and another that enables printing via the internet.“The most important thing from a file and print perspective [though,] is actually the speeding up of the performance. If you look at the performance of a NT4 and of a Windows Server 2003, the speed has increased by around 87 times…. without changing the hardware,” adds Salloum.For companies that use the OS on a web hosting server, it offers a number of key advantages, such as CPU throttling. This means that if a web site is subject to a denial of service attack (DOS), it can be shut down without affecting the rest of the server’s applications. “When we released NT4 there was no such concept as a denial of service attack, but now it is a reality and a lot of people are doing it,” notes Salloum.However, while NT 4 users may see the advantages of upgrading to Server 2003, Microsoft also needs to break Unix and Linux’s lock in the enterprise sector if it is to achieve significant growth. Traditionally, reliability has been Microsoft’s Achilles’ heel in this sector, however Salloum contends that Windows’ reputation for unreliability is unjustified.“With Windows, users assemble their servers with Taiwanese parts, and they expect it to perform as well as an IBM, HP or Sun Unix system where the company makes the hardware and software and tests them together — this is not really fair,” he contends.As such, Microsoft is touting 99.999% reliability for Windows Server 2003 when it is run on servers that meet set specifications. “No Unix operating system can offer you that at the moment — nobody else offers you guaranteed five nines [reliability],” says Salloum. ||**||