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Microsoft Sends Whistler to Beta 1

The next major upgrade to the Microsoft Windows NT operating system, code named Whistler, will be primarily a consumer upgrade, finally uniting the Windows NT and Windows 9.x code bases. But a few important changes to the server operating system are up Microsoft’s sleeve.

None of the major enhancements to Whistler Server will be found in the Beta 1 software Microsoft released to a narrow group of software testers Tuesday. Product plans call for adding pruning and grafting capabilities to the Active Directory, introducing Internet Information Services 6.0, and inserting server extensions for Microsoft Office. (For a complete list of server features in Beta 1, click here).

In fact, the somewhat late addition of features will cause Whistler Server to be released sometime after the Whistler business and consumer client software, according to Mark Hassall, Microsoft’s lead product manager for IT server infrastructure.

“This is not a paradigm shift like we had from Windows NT to Windows 2000,” Hassall says of the business features and functionality in Windows NT 6.0. “Whistler is about the consumer.”

Hassall says Whistler represents the first time consumers will have an operating system with business-class stability and robust home networking capabilities.

The separate Whistler business client and Whistler consumer client operating systems are currently scheduled to go to gold code in the summer of 2001 to be available to holiday shoppers, Hassall says.

The Microsoft schedule calls for Whistler Server, Whistler Advanced Server, and Whistler Datacenter Server to all hit the market sometime later in 2001, Hassall says. Whistler Datacenter Server is not yet in beta testing. Decisions about its feature set won’t be made until Whistler enters general beta testing sometime next year.

Analysts are already predicting at least some delay in the shipment of the operating system. Tom Bittman, an analyst with GartnerGroup who characterizes the business aspect of the release as a “fix and finish” release to Windows 2000, anticipates slippage into the first half of 2002.

In many ways, the upgraded Whistler Server will represent an Active Directory 2.0. The pruning and grafting capabilities Microsoft intends to add are supposed to allow cross-forest management, which is necessary when two companies with mature Active Directory structures are merged. The capabilities would also allow corporations greater flexibility in allowing grassroots deployments of the Active Directory at the department level.

The pruning and grafting tools are likely to come in Beta 2, Hassall says. With Beta 1, Microsoft has already introduced several new features to the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in: drag-and-drop capability and the ability to edit multiple user objects at once.

“Those are probably the two most requested changes,” says Andrew Ma, a product manager in Microsoft IT server infrastructure group.

Other Active Directory enhancements include the ability to create Domain Controllers from CDs or other media, reduction in Global Catalog replication traffic, and ending the need to have a local version of the Global Catalog for log on.

Microsoft is also pulling Resultant Set of Policies (RSoP) functionality into Whistler. RSoP allows an administrator to see what effect changes in a Group Policy might have on affected objects without actually implementing the changes.

The server extensions for Office, another feature to be introduced in Beta 2, could get sticky with the proposed antitrust remedy, since it’s a clear tie between the operating system and Microsoft’s premiere set of applications. “It would help organizations improve the way they share information and collaborate,” Hassall says.

Microsoft recently published information on its Web site about an Office Server Extensions add-on for Windows 2000. The extensions provide tight integration between Microsoft’s Office suite of productivity products and it IIS Web server, enabling workgroups and enterprises to quickly publish on the web. Microsoft promotes the feature as a means for keeping intranets fresh and easy to update. -- Scott Bekker

Christopher McConnell and Joseph McKendrick contributed to this report.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.