With its Windows Server 2003 Release 2 just months away from shipping, Microsoft for the first time has begun to detail features of the next version of the operating system, which is designed to give companies flexible deployment and management options, a better file system and an improved Web-based application platform. Longhorn Server, due to ship in 2007, has been the translucent entry at the end of Microsoft's server road map, which includes Release 2 shipment year-end and the high-performance Compute Cluster Edition version next year.
But earlier this month, Microsoft detailed Longhorn at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC), including what's definitely in and what's out. Microsoft's hyper-visor virtualization technology and new identity middleware, called Security Token Service, are out of the initial release and will be available as add-ons.
What is in is a "modular" operating system architecture, with the foundation building block called the Server Core, which consists of the Windows kernel and a set of infrastructure services such as DNS and DHCP.
The modular design has three levels and is intended to let users deploy only the components of the operating system they want to build role-based servers that are less complex and more secure. In the first level, users can install just the Server Core, which can be administered only from a command-line prompt. At the second level, users can add other services such as remote access, Terminal Services, file/print, management and Active Directory.The third level is using the same component model to install the services.
Users also can add the forthcoming Internet Information Server 7.0, which is designed in a modular fashion to be more flexible and Apache-like, according to Microsoft officials.
"The benefit [of Longhorn] is fewer moving parts," says Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with Burton Group. "That means it's easier to upgrade, uses less memory, has less overhead and fewer security issues to worry about. Architecturally what you are seeing is a restructuring of the [operating system] so you can use it in this role-based approach."
The first incarnation of the role-based model is visible in Windows Server 2003 today, but Longhorn will truly make the operating system a set of components.
"Users don't want to have all these other features available if they're not using them," says Bob Muglia, senior vice president for the Windows Server division. "It reduces the surface area for having to patch, it reduces the vulnerability, and it makes the maintenance simpler."
Microsoft also is adding features such as application remoting, which will let IT administrators design a management console using the forthcoming Microsoft Management Console 3.0, which runs on a network and can be accessed from anywhere.
Also new is Transacted File System (TFX), which has roll-back and commit options.
"We will use TFX for software deployment and patch deployment," Muglia says.
Microsoft also plans to more deeply integrate Windows SharePoint Services in Longhorn to support customized file stores, most notably as back-end servers for Office 12 applications.
"It looks to me like Microsoft is going to be at a point where they can finally make the statement that plain old file and print services are no longer sufficient and that organizations need content management systems with support from the [operating system]," says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with independent research firm Directions of Microsoft.
Microsoft has not talked about hardware requirements or licensing issues. With Vista, the client operating system set to ship next year, Microsoft offers "enterprise" versions only to users with Software Assurance contracts. The company would not reveal if the same will be true for Longhorn.
Furthermore, Microsoft says the goal with Longhorn is to have it run on the same hardware that supports Windows Server 2003. -- Network World (US)
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