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9/96 Enterprise Windows: Enterprise View

Cairo Is Coming ... Faster than You Think

By John D. Ruley

WINDOWS NT 4.0 has barely seen the light of day, and news is already leaking about NT 5.0 (Cairo). Some suggest bypassing NT 4.0 and holding out for Cairo, which Microsoft expects to release next year.

I say don't wait. NT 4.0 is a compelling upgrade (see this month's cover story, The New NT), and you can still get your hands on significant pieces of Cairo now as add-ons to either NT 3.51 or NT 4.0.

Microsoft Exchange Server, for example, ships with an early version of one of Cairo's most vital features: a single directory. This lets you enhance the administration features of NT Server 3.51 or 4.0.

When you install Exchange Server in an NT Server domain, it layers or "piggybacks" its own X.500-based directory on top of the NT domain's user and group list. That's convenient during an initial install, because your Exchange server inherits all the domain's NT user and group accounts. In effect, you don't need to create separate accounts in the mail system. Unfortunately, this leads to migration problems from Microsoft Mail. Many MS Mail sites use different names and passwords for the network and the mail system, in part because of limitations on the length of Mail user names. But the piggyback works both ways-not only does Exchange inherit the NT domain accounts, but the domain controllers can access Exchange properties.

The result isn't quite the Cairo directory, but it's a big step in that direction. Moreover, it makes possible some new administration options. One is true multiple-master domain administration, in which user account information is communicated via e-mail. Another, called Web Connector, echoes Internet newsgroups as public folders. It's being enhanced to expose private folders (individual e-mail) over the Net to allow users to read and send mail from any system that supports a Web browser.

That's rich

A single directory may be good news for administrators, but it offers little direct benefit to end users. However, Microsoft is previewing another feature that should be immediately useful to almost anyone running NT: rich, free-text query.

Here's a bit of background. From its earliest days, Cairo's feature set has included an Object File System (OFS) designed to support rich queries. Think of the file system as a database. Today's file systems are simple table structures. When you request a directory, you're actually performing a simple query against that database: looking for filenames that match a particular set of wildcards.

With Cairo, Microsoft plans to extend this to a much more sophisticated query-one that will let you search for OLE (excuse me, COM) properties like author, word count and so on. To support this, Microsoft will extend the NT file system into NTOFS (NT Object File System), and include a query tool.

The problem is that NTOFS is available only in Microsoft's NT development lab. Where can you get a rich query without the underlying database?

Stopover in Tripoli

You can get it through the Web. NT Server 4.0 integrates Microsoft's Web server, Internet Information Server (IIS), as a base operating system feature. NT 4.0 Workstation ships with a cut-down version called Peer Web Services (PWS). Both support a programming model for Web-based applications called Internet Server API (ISAPI).

Microsoft has taken the guts of Cairo's rich query-including free-text search and background indexing-and rolled it up as an ISAPI application for IIS or PWS under NT 4.0. You can download it from It's unclear whether you'll have to download it separately after NT 4.0 ships, but you will want it. Indeed, this could be a killer app.

Why? Because finding things has always been a weakness of PCs. I have a NEWSCOL directory with subdirectories for every month going back more than two years. Every column, feature, news story or review I've written is in one of those subdirectories. All I have to do is remember which one.

With PWS running on my machine, and the NEWSCOL directory mapped as a virtual Web directory, I can use Tripoli (Microsoft's code name for the ISAPI-based query tool) to find, say, everything I've ever written about Cairo. Much like, this sophisticated query supports free-text search and the "near" keyword. And because it's implemented as a Web-based ISAPI application, once I land and hook into WINDOWS Magazine's LAN, everyone there can use it to search my NEWSCOL directory. All they have to do is surf our intranet for http://noteflex/search/query.htm. I can use PWS security settings to limit who is permitted to do this, of course. This is exactly what I expected to do with Cairo-next year.

Directory and security

Of course, simply marrying NT Server's domain administration to Exchange's global directory is a lot less than you've been hoping for from Cairo. More is on the way. Specifically, Microsoft recently announced it will release a preview version of a true distributed NT directory later this year that will include advanced security features. It's been an open secret for several years now that Microsoft is deeply interested in MIT's Kerberos distributed security system. Add that to NT 4.0's vastly improved support for Internet names, and the stage is set for Cairo's directory service, the core for all other services. This will be available by year's end, both for in-house and Internet use.

You may be wondering, with all these features due out this year, why doesn't Microsoft just call NT 4.0 Cairo?

What's missing?

Despite all that's being added, NT 4.0 still isn't Cairo, for at least two reasons: It lacks the full implementation of object support in the file system, and it lacks Plug and Play. The former is the last remaining "core" Cairo feature Microsoft hasn't delivered to outside beta testers (as far as I know). Its significance lies in its ability to extend Tripoli's rich query capability to non-Web applications. NTOFS also has the potential to offer a new level of flexibility to administrators and end users. It can abstract the physical structure of the disk from its apparent structure. Folders will no longer need to have a one-to-one relationship to physical directories. If NTOFS is used in combination with Distributed COM (formerly Network OLE), Cairo may even abstract disks altogether. A network may present what appears to be a single shared disk, which is actually a group of directories on several servers logically associated with one another.

Tip o' the month

If you use NT on a notebook or PC with a small memory footprint (16MB or less), you're constantly seeking ways to improve performance. Serdar Yegulalp, of WINDOWS Magazine's technical staff, has found a foolproof way to save up to 2MB of RAM that's breathtaking in its simplicity. Start NT 4.0 and all the applications you're likely to need, then bring up the Task Manager (the easiest way to do this is to right-click on an empty section of the taskbar at the bottom of the screen). Select the Processes tab, and then choose EXPLORER. EXE and click on the End Process button. That's right, shut down Explorer. This saves 1MB to 2MB of RAM, which can be important on a small machine. If you need to launch another application later, or want to restart Explorer, press Ctrl+Alt+Del and click on the Task Manager button. That gets you the Task Manager, and from there you can run apps, including EXPLORER.EXE.

Deep Dark tells me members of the NT development team have been doing something similar for years. In any NT version you can edit the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES/Software/Microsoft/ WindowsNT/CurrentVersion/WinLogon/Shell Registry entry, which contains the default shell application (EXPLORER.EXE in NT 4.0, PROGMAN.EXE in earlier versions). You can replace that entry with another for your preferred shell application. Deep uses CMD.EXE, which launches a simple command-line shell. You may prefer the old Windows File Manager (FILEMGR.EXE). If you do this trick on NT 3.x, use whatever shell you have to launch TASKMAN.EXE first, before you run other apps. This will give you the familiar Ctrl+Esc functionality. I hope you find this as useful as I did.

Editor-at-Large John D. Ruley is the principal author of Networking Windows NT 3.51 (John Wiley & Sons, 1995). Contact John in the "Enterprise View" topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe. John Ruley's e-mail ID is:

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