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-- by Joseph C. Panettieri
In its boldest bid yet to win the hearts and minds of enterprise administrators, Microsoft is expanding the Windows NT product family with a new operating system that boasts enhanced reliability and scalability features. But if you think this is the latest tale about Windows NT 5.0, guess again.
On the contrary: Microsoft's new entry in the NT market is dubbed Windows NT Server 4.0, Enterprise Edition (also known as Windows NT Server/E). This new NT offering, slated for release around the time you read this, includes clustering, SMP and transaction processing features not found in the current NT Server 4.0 build.
NT Server/E comes with Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS), formerly code-named Wolfpack. MSCS lets you interlink two NT servers for added reliability. When one server in the cluster fails, desktop users are seamlessly moved to the secondary server. MSCS works in tandem with several new features in NT Server/E, such as application isolation, disk mirroring and file directory journaling.
The current NT Server 4.0 build is licensed for use with up to four processors. But since many businesses are deploying advanced applications on NT, the new NT Server/E supports up to eight processor systems. Virtually every major server vendor from Compaq to Unisys plans to offer eight-way systems that support NT Server/E and BackOffice. Of course, running large applications on an eight-way NT server will require lots of memory. But don't fret: NT Server/E supports a new feature called 4GB RAM Tuning (4GT) that reduces the potential RAM allocated to NT's kernel from 2GB to 1GB, and increases the potential RAM allocated to applications from 2GB to 3GB. Microsoft claims 4GT can improve the performance of data mining and decision support applications.
For added reliability, NT Server/E includes Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS, formerly code-named Viper) and Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ, formerly code-named Falcon). MTS is middleware for building distributed applications, such as a financial check-processing system. MSMQ is store-and-forward middleware that requires SQL Server and guarantees delivery of messages between applications running on multiple networked computers. As you might expect, NT Server/E will carry a larger price tag ($3,999 for 25 users) than its sibling, NT Server 4.0 ($1,468 for 25 users). Microsoft says it may adjust NT Server/E's price, pending customer feedback.
Inside NT Server/E
Feature: Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS)
Benefit: Formerly code-named Wolfpack, this software lets you interlink two NT servers for added reliability.
Feature: Eight-way SMP
Benefit: The current NT Server license scales to four processors. NT Server/E will offer out-of-the-box support for up to eight processors.
Feature: 4GB RAM Tuning (4GT)
Benefit: This feature provides applications with an additional 1GB of potential RAM.
Feature: Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS)
Benefit: MTS (formerly code-named Viper) is component-based middleware for building transaction-intensive distributed applications.
Feature: Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ)
Benefit: Formerly code-named Falcon, MSMQ provides reliable message and data delivery between distributed applications.