Microsoft 'Net Strategy Starts to Unfold

ORLANDO, FLA. (06/08/2000) - Microsoft Corp. last week began pulling the covers back on Next Generation Windows Services, the company's strategy to marry Windows to the Internet.

At its annual TechEd conference in Orlando, Microsoft introduced a caching and firewall server, part of the foundation for NGWS. The company also outlined upgrades to its Visual Studio development tools that will be used to create server-based applications and services accessible by nearly any networked device, and unveiled technology for creating customized interfaces into those applications and services.

Microsoft's new caching and firewall server, dubbed the Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA), will replace the company's existing Proxy Server.

The new offering has access controls, traffic filtering, intrusion detection, bandwidth control and reporting capabilities. It also provides caching, which locally stores frequently accessed Web content, to boost Web site performance.

The server, which is in beta testing, is scheduled for release by year-end.

"ISA plugs a security hole in the [Microsoft] lineup," says Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. "The server looks good on paper, but Microsoft certainly hasn't established itself as a firewall player."

Security is something Microsoft needs to deliver on to convince companies to share even more corporate data and applications over the Internet, observers say. "NGWS sounds fantastic in a world where you can implicitly trust," says Chris Lord, director of global technology for Reuters Group PLC. But Lord views the strategy with caution. "We won't be comfortable with the broad network until we are comfortable that we know exactly who is on it. NGWS is predicated on clear, effective security," he says.

In addition to shoring up the back end, Microsoft unveiled Web Parts, XML-based components that can be combined to create custom interfaces for Outlook clients and browsers. Web Parts also includes tools in the new Digital Dashboard Resource Kit 2.0, which allows companies to build their own components.

"Web Parts is not a Microsoft standard, it is XML," says Randy Eckel, chief operating officer of InfoImage in Phoenix. Eckel plans to use Web Parts for his company's Freedom 2 portal. "If enterprise portal vendors adopt Web Parts, we can offer customers something they've been asking for - interoperability between competing portals," he says. "Application vendors and content providers can package their information in standard XML."

That type of integration across the Web and across enterprise networks is key to Microsoft's new Internet platform strategy.

Also last week, the company announced BackOffice Server 2000, which is scheduled to ship by year-end. The new edition of Microsoft's server suite - including Windows 2000 and SQL Server - can be run on up to three machines, instead of just one, to increase reliability. It also includes health monitoring, remote administration and a server deployment wizard to ensure consistent configurations across multiple BackOffice deployments.

BackOffice 2000 also includes a pre-built intranet site with four applications that can be customized and integrated with other Web applications and NGWS.

Network World Fusion Staff Writer Jason Meserve contributed to this report.

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