Microsoft has unveiled the roadmap for its Windows .Net server family and will make the third beta version of .Net server available to developers by the end of this month.
Now is the best time for customers to spell out what their business needs from .Net are, advised analysts, the Butler Group.
The servers, due for release in the UK in the first half of next year, will be easier to manage, involve less code and be faster than Sun J2EE-based servers, Microsoft claimed.
The products will include the Windows .Net Data Center Server, which will support eight-way node clustering and both 32bit and 64bit processing models, and the Windows .Net Enterprise Server, supporting four-node clustering and the same processing models.
The Windows .Net Standard Server will be aimed at small and medium sized companies, while the Windows .Net Web Server is aimed at hosting environments.
Microsoft said the new generation of Windows servers will provide the foundation for Microsoft's platform for web services based on XML, allowing applications to communicate and share data over the internet.
The servers will include support for industry-standard protocols such as XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI, better equipping developers to create powerful websites, services and applications, said Bob O'Brien, group product manager for the Windows server division at Microsoft.
"We've focused on three main areas in the .Net strategy - security, performance and scalability," said O'Brien.
The focus on security is right, but Microsoft will face challenges in convincing developers and end-users, said Alan Lawson, research analyst at Butler Group.
"I am confident that every version will improve on the previous one. But it will have a hard struggle in convincing people that it is good enough," Lawson said.
"Enterprise should be using the tests to communicate exactly what applications they need for their business. Microsoft hasn't always had the best record in delivering this," he added.
The company said that beta three, due this month, will increase the number of testers with access to .Net, which would provide more end-user scenarios and more useful developer feedback.
O'Brien said that lock-down, authentication and management functionality had been added since the release of beta two, and that core file systems had been extended to support "shadow copying", the automatic backup of all documents. However, this is not a replacement for document management functionalities, he said.
Windows Media applications services such as message queuing will also feature, according to O'Brien.
When Microsoft rewrote one of Sun's Java applets in a .Net format, it cut the number of lines of code used by two thirds, and increased speed by up to 28 times.
"Developers and IT managers will be able to better manage processes and will see significant price performance improvements," O'Brien added.
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