Microsoft chief maps out Longhorn capabilities

Microsoft wants developers to build server applications that will last for decades, said Jim Allchin, group vice-president of the...

Microsoft wants developers to build server applications that will last for decades, said Jim Allchin, group vice-president of the company's platforms group, in a speech at the Microsoft DevCon conference.

Allchin extolled the virtues of the company's planned next-generation release of Windows, codenamed "Longhorn," which will not appear until 2004. Microsoft wants developers to push the limits of the Windows server platform, he stressed.

"You're really designing systems that will live not five years but 10, 15, 20 years," based on a Windows architecture that will be modular and componentised, Allchin told the audience. "It's pretty amazing when you think about it. You can get presence information, you can get notifications, and you can sort of integrate the front office and consumer applications with what's happening in the backroom," Allchin said.

To advance its server platform, Microsoft has a roster of improvements planned in areas ranging from security to storage and scalability. Sixty-four-bit processing will be supported in Windows .net Server 2003 operating system planned for release in early-2003. "I think over a period of time you will see 64-bit becoming pretty much the mainstream," Allchin said.

In the area of security, Microsoft's Palladium project will secure machine integrity, Allchin said. This will extend the use of digital rights management to protect content, he said. Higher levels of privacy are also planned.

The Longhorn release of the Windows server operating system will feature a much richer storage system, the foundation of which is the upcoming Yukon release of the SQL Server database, Allchin said. In Yukon, developers can write stored procedures in whatever language they wish, he said.

Longhorn will feature intelligent automatic configuration; resilient, self-healing operations; componentisation, and "smart eventing" and monitoring services, according to Microsoft. Error reporting will also be improved.

With Longhorn Microsoft wants BIOSes and firmware to be "automatically updated in a seamless way," said Allchin. Using smart eventing and monitoring services, the system will better understand events happening amongst multiple systems. Administration in Longhorn, meanwhile, will be scalable and seamless, Allchin said. Longhorn will also support the allocation of racks of machines to specific purposes.

With Web services, the company is endeavoring to standardise protocols to enable richer message-passing. "We're super-committed to the Web services area," said Allchin.

Users will have location-independent storage, to move files between different environments via virtualisation of storage and switching fabrics. "I consider this really, really important," Allchin said. Some of this technology may precede Longhorn, he added.

Seamless data migration is also a goal for Longhorn, as is improved security. Microsoft hopes to make available some currently internal tools for scouring code and symbolically executing it to find issues. The new software is likely to include Trustbridge technology, due out next year.

In addition, "we want to be able to put servers inside businesses and have bits flow to those servers, which can then be pushed out to servers or clients within the company," added Allchin, about the company's security management goals.

Longhorn will also enable deployment of applications with rich media types such as video. In the area of dynamic indexes, Microsoft plans to schematise a set of import objects such as groups, said Allchin. Intelligent folder support is also planned.

On the client side of what Allchin called the Longhorn "wave," Microsoft plans to deploy a concept called "client immersion," which features rich storage, peer-to-peer support, and a new presentation system with improved 3D graphics. To improve "network intelligence," Microsoft will drive adoption of IPV6.

Hardware is also set to dramatically improve, Allchin said. Security-wise, processors will "change in a way that we can be more dependent on knowing that software isn't tampered with," he said.

Speaking about open source systems, Allchin compared Linux to a puppy that is cute upon arrival, but then the owner suddenly realises he must bear the burden of housetraining, feeding and walking the animal.

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