Gates vows to beef up MS App Server offerings

Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates has acknowledged that Microsoft must improve its application server technologies within Windows NT Server and the forthcoming upgrade, Windows 2000.

In mid-2000 - by which time Microsoft hopes companies are moving to Windows 2000 - the company will release a package called Application Server Extensions, Gates said in a videotaped speech beamed to some 18,000 Windows developers attending the company's Developer Days event in 32 cities in the US.

The package will offer simpler administration, unlimited clustering capacity and "bullet-proof" fault tolerance, said Gates and product manager Garth Fort.

While competitors have released specific application server products, the "application server" in Windows 2000 relies on technologies in the operating system, mainly COM+ (Component Object Model) and Microsoft Transaction Server.

Fort demonstrated Application Server Extensions for the developers, intentionally crashing a server so others in the farm would pick up the load. The technology identified its problem, a memory leak, and fixed it. Fort also added a new server to the farm, and the extensions replicated server settings on the system automatically.

Essentially, Developer Days was an addendum to Microsoft's "Windows DNA 2000" event in San Francisco earlier in the week. There, Microsoft outlined its vision for creating next-generation Web applications, with an emphasis on e-commerce; the vision relies on Windows 2000 and technologies such as Microsoft's BizTalk and Babylon interoperability server.

Gates encouraged his audience to develop on Windows 2000, which he hopes will ship by the end of the year. Ron Wittmier, president of WNT Inc and a Seattle-area regional director for the peer-oriented Microsoft Developers Network, told the crowd that Release Candidate 2 (RC2) of Windows 2000 was scheduled be released to manufacturing last Wednesday.

Gates reiterated the company's high hopes for Windows 2000, dusting off his "we're betting the company on Windows 2000" assertion and calling it "the largest investment Microsoft has ever made". He promised the system would be reliable, based on the fact that some 500,000 testers are putting the beta of the product though its paces.

"Microsoft is running its entire business, Exchange Server and SAP and everything, on Windows 2000," Gates said.

In one form or another, Windows 2000 has been in development at Microsoft for several years. Now, the company is bearing down in an attempt to get it out the door by the end of 1999, although even Microsoft concedes that it will be several months into 2000 before companies adopt it in a meaningful way.

Wittmier joked about some of the reasons Microsoft made the name change from Windows NT to Windows 2000. Among them: the number "2000" was a hint as to how many megabytes will be required to run the operating system, and the high number would reassure users who are wary of Version 1.0 products.

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