Microsoft unveils newest server software

Microsoft Corp. unveiled its newest server software in its line of .Net enterprise products Monday during a keynote presentation at its annual TechEd developers conference in Atlanta, Ga., and offered a peek at an early version of the successor to its popular SQL Server, code-named “Yukon.”

Senior vice-president Paul Flessner, who heads up Microsoft’s .Net enterprise server division, demonstrated the company’s Mobile Information 2001 Server, which reached manufacturers last month and officially launched Monday. This has been an anticipated product release for the software maker as more companies build out their computer systems to be accessed on handheld and wireless devices.

“Mobility is absolutely core to what Microsoft is doing,” Flessner said.

The server software offers access to Microsoft .Net enterprise applications, data and intranet content from remote devices. It also includes Outlook Mobile Access, which allows users to securely access their Exchange Server e-mail, contacts and calendar.

Flessner also demonstrated the Content Management Server 2001 during his keynote, a platform for building and managing Web content. Microsoft Corp. acquired the technology for its Content Management Server in May when it purchased San Jose, California-based NCompass Labs Inc. Microsoft made some alterations to the original software, designed to allow companies to easily create and edit content from a variety of devices, and will relaunch it with its new name.

The software offers a range of options to create more dynamic Web content. It enables visitors to a Web site that run on the platform to receive customized content based on a profile they can set up when signing on to a site. The Content Management Server can also alter the look of a Web site, depending on the device it is displayed on.

“I think there are some very interesting features that could make for some very creative Web sites,” said Dave Wills, a systems consultant with Sierra Systems Group based in Vancouver, B.C., who’s company has been working with the current version of the server software from NCompass for about three months. “For instance, how it interacts with the Commerce Server.”

Flessner said it would rename NCompass’ Resolution 4.0 as Microsoft Content Management Server 2001, and launch the Web server sometime in the third quarter.

Since Microsoft first unveiled its .Net initiative nearly a year ago, the Redmond, Washington software maker has released seven enterprise server products that contain parts of the framework for supporting Web services and applications that run on industry standards such as XML (extensible markup language) and SOAP (simple object access protocol). Those include Exchange 2000, SQL Server 2000, Host Integration Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, BizTalk Server 2000, ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) Server 2000 and Application Center 2000.

Microsoft said Monday that it has deployed more than one million SQL Servers running databases for major corporate customers, and has boosted that business to be worth about US$1 billion.

Continuing on its push to pick up market share among corporate customers, Flessner said Microsoft will continue to release server software through 2003 that will rely heavily on XML integration and allow developers to write code in a range of languages, from rival Java to its emerging language C#.

“That is the time frame in which Web services will really hit their stride,” he said.

An early example of this new flexibility for developers and companies looking to deploy Web services that run on competing operating systems will come with the release of the Yukon server. Due out in 2003, this next version of the SQL Server will have “deep XML integration,” Flessner said, and support more than 23 developers languages.

“Microsoft is very serious about making Microsoft server software the standard,” said Dan Kusnetzky, systems software analyst with International Data Corp (IDC). “I’m not sure all the important players are open to that approach or whether competitors will bow out of their way to share the market.”

But if Microsoft’s history in the server software market is any indication on how its new products will do, the variety of software the company touts to run corporate computer systems could be an issue for competitors such as Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp., Kusnetzky said. When Windows NT Server 3.1 first shipped in 1992, it held less than one per cent of the market share worldwide by shipments of software.

By 2001, the newest version of the software, a combination of Windows NT 4 and Windows 2000 Server, has a market share of about 41 per cent, according to preliminary numbers from IDC.

“That is amazing growth,” Kusnetzky said.

Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of IDG News Service, is based in Framingham, Mass., and can be reached at