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Microsoft Delivers RC1 for W2K Datacenter Server

Microsoft Corp. moved a step closer to rolling out its overdue first offering for the glasshouse today by delivering Release Candidate 1 of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server.

“We’re very close [to a final release],” said Michel Gambier, group product manager of enterprise server marketing at Microsoft. “We do not anticipate a long time between RC1 and Release to Manufacturing.”

Datacenter Server is the fourth and final version of Windows 2000, and the only version which has no precursor in the Windows NT 4.0 family of operating systems.

In a distribution method unique among Microsoft software products, Datacenter Server will be sold only through hardware manufacturers. The OS will come preloaded on complete systems certified by Microsoft.

The strict certification program is part of the Windows Datacenter Program, which is designed to ensure that demanding enterprise datacenter managers get a reliable and fully tested system.

RC1 of Datacenter Server went out to the participating hardware manufacturers and customers in Microsoft’s Joint Development Program, a group of about 20 customers including Credit Suisse First Boston, Abbey National and Data Return. Between JDP customers and beta customers who obtain their code through the OEMs who provided their systems, Gambier says the test group includes a few hundred customers.

The Windows Datacenter Program may be the most important feature of Datacenter Server. Through its coordinated control of changes and single-point-of-contact support for enterprise customers, the program represents an attempt to ease fears among systems management professionals leery of Microsoft’s reputation as an up-from-the-desktop vendor of products of questionable reliability. Only systems capable of supporting at least eight processors will be eligible for certification.

Hardware members of the Datacenter Program include Bull, Compaq Computer Corp., Data General, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., NEC Corp., Stratus Computer and Unisys Corp. Earlier this week, Compaq was the first to square away all the business partnership documents and support infrastructure preparations to be certified as ready for the Windows Datacenter Program.

New features in Windows 2000 Datacenter Server include support for up to 32 processors, a feature Unisys managed to demonstrate June 15 with its new ES7000 server, up to four-node failover clustering, and up to 64 GB of RAM using Intel’s 36-bit extensions.

Gambier says two or three vendors are in line to have four-node cluster configurations certified shortly after RTM of Datacenter Server.

RC1 follows the Beta 2 version of Datacenter Server, which came out May 23. Microsoft had initially planned to release Datacenter Server within 60 days of Windows 2000. That timetable eventually stretched to 120 days. As the 120-day deadline of June 17 passed, the delivery timetable became summer. RC1 is expected to be the only release candidate before RTM.

Gambier says the earliest systems will be ready is about three weeks after RTM. To ship a system, hardware vendors must run a two-week stress test with the final code to prove the system is ready. Scott Bekker

About the Author

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

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