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A First Look: Peer Into the Future of Windows
Microsoft hopes tightly integrated Windows servers will ease the complexity of managing an enterprise.
by Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest

November 19, 2004

Microsoft's server products have come a long way since 1993 when the company released Windows NT 3.1. The combination of BackOffice Server and Windows NT formed the foundation of Microsoft's first forays into the server realm a decade ago.


Today, Windows NT is reborn as Windows Server 2003. BackOffice is reincarnated as the Windows Server System—a collection of server-based tools that support a whole series of features and functions required for organizations that span small businesses to enterprises. Windows Server itself is considerably more robust and more secure than Windows NT ever was. The same goes for the Windows Server System. This family of products covers everything from infrastructure management and software deployment to collaboration and communications support for information workers. All products in the family have matured. Many have been redesigned from the ground up.

Microsoft also released a new brand: the Microsoft Office System. These server products are still part of the Windows Server System family, but because of their focus on information worker support, they have been included in the Office family of products, as Office has now become a synonym for office automation.

Overall, 18 products make up the Windows Server System. Each focuses on a specific feature or network function. Products are grouped into three functional infrastructure categories: operations infrastructure, information work infrastructure, and application infrastructure (see Figure 1).

The glue that brings all of these infrastructure components together lies in Microsoft's Windows strategy at both the server and the client level. One of the key features of the Windows Server System is its integrated look and feel. Windows Server System has taken lessons from Microsoft Office and now offers a single approach to administration and management, the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). Once operators have learned how the MMC works, they only need to learn a specific product's functionality when they integrate a new Windows Server System product into their network infrastructure.

"Microsoft provides the only platform where when we add functionality to a network, we reduce complexity," says Ilya Bukshteyn, director of product management for the Windows Server System. That's quite a claim and it's not far from the truth. The tight integration between Windows Server System products does help reduce the complexity of managing a complete enterprise architecture. And, despite information to the contrary, managing a homogeneous infrastructure is far less complex than managing an infrastructure where services are provided by different platforms.

To support his statement, Bukshteyn uses Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 as an example. Bukshteyn says SBS provides a complete platform for the small business even as far as full support for wireless e-mail and Internet access through pocket devices. This is done through the integration of features such as Exchange's support for Outlook Mobile Access, which is designed to provide secure wireless e-mail to Smartphones or Pocket PCs. Thus, organizations choosing this product do not require third-party tools such as the Blackberry and the infrastructure required to support it to gain a wireless advantage. SBS is an integrated version of multiple Windows Server System components, including SQL Server, Exchange Server, ISA Server, and more in its Premium Edition. Because of this, it is much like the BackOffice of old that provides one single integrated installation for all required components.

This is not the case for the other individual products of the Windows Server System. Installations are independent and even though there are integration points, they are not necessarily automated.

"Windows Server System no longer includes integrated deployment scenarios such as were available in BackOffice," Bukshteyn says. "That's because enterprise customers have asked us to keep installations separate. This allows them to deploy Windows Server System components individually and on independent schedules.

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