With the computing world becoming more and more distributed, the need for integrating IT systems grows with it. Enterprises must offer personnel in various locations the same services as those available at headquarters. For example, with the connectivity possibilities these days, the need to distribute a complete product catalog to every salesperson, regardless of location, no longer exists. This catalog can now reside at headquarters, and each salesperson can use a web-based application to access it, just as if it was located on his own computer. With the introduction of SOAP, XML, and web services, it has become even easier to share services within an organization, as well as with partners and customers. It’s now possible to build features based on a web service into a Windows application. The application itself is run on the user computer, but the web service can be run on the other side of the world, if necessary. If you want to learn more about web services and their benefits, please see Chapters 5 and 6 in this book, where we’ll dissect web services thoroughly. Web services are here to stay, and they give you great opportunities. Microsoft has realized this, and its .NET initiative is a response to this. By using Visual Studio .NET, it has become fairly straightforward to integrate various web services into your own applications.
The next generation of server operating systems from Microsoft, the Windows Server 2003 family, includes .NET Framework integration. This offers great possibilities to simplify the development of large-scale applications that can exploit XML web services. This way, businesses of all sizes can benefit from the .NET application platform.
The .NET Framework is available for Windows 2000 as well, but in Windows Server 2003 it is integrated right out of the box. Performance tests also show great performance gains for running .NET applications on a Windows Server 2003 compared to running the same applications on a Windows 2000 system.
Let’s take a look at some selected improvements in the new server family that enhance both scalability and availability. First of all, the new version of Internet Information Services, version 6.0, has been completely re-architected from earlier versions. IIS 6.0 includes a new fault-tolerant process model that definitely improves the reliability of web sites and applications. In earlier versions of IIS, a single application failure could bring down the entire web site. Now, in IIS 6.0, a new feature called the application pool provides a self-contained process, consisting of a single web application or multiple sites. If an error occurs in an application pool, only that process is affected, and all the others will still be functioning. You will learn more about the application pool later in the book, but as you can understand from this short description, the availability of web sites has increased significantly.
IIS 6.0 also includes native support of ASP.NET. This is not such surprising news, as the .NET Framework is included in the operating system, and ASP.NET is a part of this framework. But a good thing about ASP.NET is that it gives you better performance compared to the old ASP model.
Web services are deeply integrated in the Windows Server 2003 family. Existing COM+ applications and Microsoft Message Queuing objects can easily be converted and exposed as web services. MSMQ now also uses SOAP and XML natively, so loosely coupled applications can interoperate with a broader range of systems. This lets legacy systems take advantage of the connectivity .NET offers.
Both scaling out and scaling up has had some significant boosts. When it comes to scaling out, clusters using Microsoft Cluster Service can now have up to eight nodes. This is twice the number of nodes Windows 2000 offered. Thus, you are provided with the tools to give you many possibilities for deploying applications and setting up failover policies that suit your business. It is also possible to separate nodes geographically, which provides for high fault tolerance. What this really means is that you can deploy an application on an eight-node cluster that is geographically dispersed over two separate locations. If you lose functionality at one location, your application will still function.
All versions of the Windows Server 2003 family now offer Network Load Balancing without the use of Application Server.
Scaling up has also been enhanced. The Windows Server 2003 family can now offer from 2- to 32-CPU SMP support, depending on which version is used. The amount of RAM a system can handle has been improved, giving you the possibility of having as much as 512GB in your system.
The administrative tools have also been improved, with more wizards and options for configuring the system. Figure 2-2 shows the Manage Your Server Wizard starting page, which helps administrators configure the server for different uses.
Figure 2-3 shows the Server Administration page from the Web Edition.
Figure 2-3. The Server Administration page in Windows Server 2003 Web Edition
The server family itself has once again grown. Now you have four versions to choose from. (If you want to be picky, you actually have six, since two of these also come in 64-bit versions.)
- Windows Server 2003 Web Edition
- Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
- Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition 32-bit/64-bit
- Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition 32-bit/64-bit