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-- by Joseph C. Panettieri and John D. Ruley
The NT Object File System (NTOFS) is finally nearing beta, the BackOffice product suite will likely be expanded, and forthcoming Microsoft tools will automatically update and synchronize corporate NT desktops. That's the exclusive word from Jim Allchin, the senior vice president behind Microsoft's enterprise strategy. (For a transcript of the interview-conducted by NT Enterprise over the Internet-go to http://www.winmag.com/ew.)
Like NT Workstation 4.0, version 5.0's license will likely include a 10 inbound-IP connection limit, which raises objections from some users. "Currently, we have no plans to change the license restriction for NT [Workstation] 5.0," Allchin revealed. "However, we review the license very late in the product development cycle, so it's still too early to be definitive."
Some critics maintain that without the connection limit, there's little difference between NT Workstation (about $320) and the more expensive NT Server ($809). Allchin conceded that NTW and NTS share the same kernel, but added that they are configured very differently. For instance, the kernel senses whether you're running the workstation or server edition and configures itself accordingly. This configuration stage adjusts NT's scheduling, memory layout, memory management and thread management, among other things. "No one should underestimate the differences between the two systems once the kernel is dynamically configured," said Allchin.
As expected (see NT Newstrends, April), Microsoft is expanding its server suites to include both BackOffice and the Microsoft Commercial Internet System. "There may be other product suites in the future based on customer feedback and selected target markets," said Allchin.
One BackOffice component in particular, Systems Management Server (SMS), will play a central role in Microsoft's Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW) initiative. The next SMS release, code-named Project Opal, will ease software deployment and remote help-desk diagnostics. Opal will also autosense devices on your network. Separately, ZAW will let NT Server 5.0 support automatic OS updates, application install/deinstall and synchronized file replication.
Despite these enhancements, Allchin knows there's more work to be done. His ultimate goal, as he also revealed to us in a 1994 interview, remains building the equivalent of a distributed mainframe-something that's logically centralized but physically decentralized. "In short, we're not there yet," he said. "But every day I know we're closing in on this dream."