Allchin touts future of Windows server platform

Microsoft Corp., with its Windows server platform set to gain dramatic improvements in security, storage, and reliability, wants developers to build server applications that will last for decades, said Jim Allchin, group vice president of the company's platforms group, in a speech at the Microsoft DevCon conference here Friday.

The executive touted the company's planned next-generation release of Windows, codenamed "Longhorn," which will not appear until the 2004 timeframe. Microsoft wants developers to push the limits of the Windows server platform, he stressed.

"You're really designing systems that will live not five years but 10, 15, 20 years," based on a Windows architecture that will be modular and componentized, Allchin told the audience.

The company wants developers to dare to dream.

"It's pretty amazing when you think about it. You can get presence information, you can get notifications, and you can sort of integrate the front office and consumer applications with what's happening in the backroom," Allchin said.

Developers will be able to create communities with customers, he said.

To advance its server platform, Microsoft has a roster of improvements planned in areas ranging from security to storage and scalability.

Sixty-four-bit processing will be supported in the Windows .Net Server 2003 operating system planned for release in early-2003. "I think over a period of time you will see 64-bit becoming pretty much the mainstream," Allchin said.

In the area of security, Microsoft's Palladium project will secure machine integrity, Allchin said. This will extend the use of digital rights management to protect content, he said. Higher levels of privacy also are planned.

The Longhorn release of the Windows server operating system will feature a much richer storage system, the foundation of which is the upcoming Yukon release of the SQL Server database, Allchin said. In Yukon, developers can write stored procedures in whatever language they wish, he said.

Longhorn will feature intelligent automatic configuration; resilient, self-healing operations; componentization, and "smart eventing" and monitoring services, according to Microsoft. Error reporting also will be improved.

Microsoft with Longhorn wants BIOSes and firmware to be "automatically updated in a seamless way," said Allchin.

With smart eventing and monitoring services, the system will better understand events happening amongst multiple systems. Administration in Longhorn, meanwhile, will be scalable and seamless, Allchin said. Longhorn also will support the allocation of racks of machines to specific purposes.

With Web services, the company is endeavoring to standardize protocols to enable richer message-passing. "We're super-committed to the Web services area," said Allchin.

Users will have location-independent storage, to move files between different environments via virtualization of storage and switching fabrics. "I consider this really, really important," Allchin said. Some of this technology may precede Longhorn, he added.

Seamless data migration also is goal for Longhorn, as is improved security. Microsoft hopes to make available some currently internal tools for scouring code and symbolically executing it to find issues.

Longhorn also focuses on federation for security management. Trustbridge technology, to come out in the next year, does federating between heterogeneous sites from an identity perspective to enable file-sharing with a particular partner, for example.

In addition, "We want to be able to put servers inside businesses and have bits flow to those servers, which can then be pushed out to servers or clients within the company," added Allchin, about the company's security management goals.

Longhorn also will enable deployment of applications with rich media types such as video. "We're real believers that the days for just numbers and words, we're going to leave those in the last century," said Allchin. RTC (real time communications) services also are planned for Longhorn.

In the area of dynamic indexes, Microsoft plans to schematize a set of import objects such as groups, said Allchin. Intelligent folder support also is planned.

A DevCon attendee said Microsoft, with its server operating system plans, was pulling alongside Unix and mainframe OSes in functionality.

"I definitely think it's pretty close," said Chris Dickey, a systems consultant in San Diego.

Microsoft is now scaling from small to large systems, he said. The only area where Microsoft still needs work, Dickey said, is in improving interoperability between its .Net programming platform and IBM's J2EE-based WebSphere application server platform.

On the client side of what Allchin called the Longhorn "wave," Microsoft plans to deploy a concept called "client immersion," which features rich storage, peer-to-peer support, and a new presentation system with improved 3D graphics.

To improve "network intelligence," Microsoft will drive adoption of IPV6.

Hardware also is dramatically improving in a manner comparable to software, Allchin stressed. In the area of security, processors will "change in a way that we can be more dependent on knowing that software isn't tampered with," said Allchin.

Allchin panned Linux, comparing it to a puppy that is cute upon arrival, but then the owner suddenly realizes he must bear the burden of housetraining, feeding, and walking the animal.

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