Microsoft Rethinks Win2K Clustering Strategy

A new Windows 2000 AppCenter server designed for managing clusters of web servers is to make its appearance mid next year, as MIcrosoft yanks Component Load Balancing (CLB) from Windows 2000

Microsoft Corp. has reversed field on its Windows 2000 clustering strategy and will now tear out part of the technology and fold it into a separate server.

Microsoft says the intent of the newly unveiled AppCenter Server is to create a mechanism to manage and monitor large Web server farms running applications built using its Component Object Model (COM+) technology. For IT executives, the new server is also intended to ensure fault tolerance for key Web applications, most notably electronic commerce.

AppCenter features a set of management, monitoring and replication tools, as well as the Component Load Balancing (CLB) service that was originally part of Windows 2000.

Some questioned whether Microsoft lifted CLB because it was causing problems that could delay the release of Windows 2000, which also includes Network Load Balancing and Cluster Service. The Cluster Service in particular provides a failover capability for CLB. But observers say creating a separate product makes sense.

"CLB is basically a routing service, and now with AppCenter, you have the tools to manage server farms from one console," says Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, which has been putting CLB through its paces. "The real benefit may be the reduction in manpower needed to manage each individual machine in a server farm."

The CLB service functions as a "router" that balances COM+ objects across servers in a server farm. Using a response-time tracking mechanism, CLB ensures that requests for COM+ objects are filled as quickly as possible, thus ensuring performance of applications.

Microsoft officials say CLB alone was not enough, and an extra set of tools was needed to complement the service. Originally, Microsoft was set to include a basic management tool for CLB within Windows 2000.

With AppCenter, Microsoft has added management features to assist CLB, including a single console to manage distributed applications; replication services for components and files; and self-healing mechanisms for hardware and software.

AppCenter is expected to ship in the middle of next year. Pricing and licensing have not been announced.

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