by November 5, 2002 0 comments

Microsoft started work on Whistler in December 1999. The project branched off into two directions: one was .Net server and the other was what we now know as Win XP. 

When you boot from the CD, you get the familiar installation process (present since the Win 2000/NT days). Once the installation is complete and you boot your server for the first time, you get the interface which is same as in Win XP, but with the Classic theme. You are also prompted to activate your copy of Windows within 14 days. 

Let us now look at some of the features and improvements in the new .Net Server.

The first noticeable thing about Windows .Net server is its ease of use and manageability. You get the ‘Manage your server’ window on boot up, which allows you to add and manage server roles on your machine. These include file server, print server, Web, mail, terminal server, VPN, DNS, DHCP and streaming media. The process of setting these up is wizard-driven and requisite components are added and configured for you as you go through the step-by-step process. The wizard even points you to the appropriate management console for the server role you are configuring. No more hunting around in the Administrative Tools program group. This is a real boon for administrators. 

You can
add and manage server roles conveniently

Active directory
Microsoft has made significant improvements to the AD (Active Directory) in this version of Windows server. The process of deployment and migration is supposed to be much faster than in Win 2000 Server. And indeed, when we went on to set up the ADS (Active Directory Service), the creation process was noticeably faster. Also directory migration and domain renaming is easier in this version. When it comes to AD replication, Windows .Net server supports replication through removable media like CD/DVD drives or through a file on a network. This makes the process a whole lot easier and faster. 

Volume Shadow Copy
This is a feature that allows you to have continuous backups of volumes, even when a file is being changed. This can be implemented for the server as well as user volumes at file, volume or application level. It works remotely, automatically and can be scheduled, too. Restores are possible simply by clicking on a file in the Explorer and looking at its properties to select a previous version of the same. In all, this translates to improved data safety in case of eventualities. 

This is the first version of Windows to include the .Net framework runtime by default. What this means is that there is built-in support for all the major Web services standards and hence development of Web applications with Web services becomes easier.

IIS 6.0
Windows .Net Server features the latest version of IIS–IIS 6.0. This has long being touted as a major overhaul of IIS. The RPA (Request Processing Architecture) has been changed completely to make it more scalable than the previous versions. Another change is that Web applications running on IIS run in their own isolated resource environment within a self-contained Web service process. This increases the stability of the server in case of failure of an application process. This also translates into better reliability in times of external attacks on a service. The complete server would not be brought down if one application service gets compromised and attacked.

Also, the way requests are handled and served has been changed. Instead of using a single Web server process to route all requests, IIS 6.0 uses three processes: Web Administration Service (to handle Web processes), kernel-level listener (to listen and queue HTTP requests) and a load handler (to load applications into separate, isolated processes).

Windows .Net Server Enterprise Edition, supports up to eight-node clustering (up from just two-node clustering in Windows 2000 Advanced Server). What this translates into is improved reliability and fail-over load transferring. The NLB (Network Load Balancing) also claims to have been enhanced to improve the reliability of the system. 

For better control and management of memory, the Windows Resource Manager has been revamped to ward off misbehaving applications. Additionally, resource priorities can be scheduled and profiles can be made for use during different times of the day. 

The first noticeable security feature is IIS Lockdown. Windows .Net Server by default does not install IIS, SMTP and FTP servers. Even if you are upgrading from a Win 2000 installation, it locks your IIS down by default. This takes away a huge chunk of the reason for Internet worm infections because IIS deployments can now be more controlled and hence more secure. During the installation process of IIS, the integrated Lockdown Tool ensures that only the extensions you need are enabled. 

Menu for managing the services can be accessed through the Administrative tools

As with Win XP, the .Net Server also features the Internet Connection Firewall. By default (when enabled), it filters all traffic, which is not in response to the traffic originating from the server. Other features include smart card logons, improved EFS and SSL and 802.11 authentication features.

All in all, it would be worth an upgrade for people still running on Win NT. For Win 2000 users, it may not offer too many advantages, considering that they might have fine-tuned and customized their Win 2000 Advanced Server well by now. Some more features like LAN load balancing are expected to be in the final release of Windows .Net Server. Let us wait and watch.

Ashish Sharma

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