REDMOND, Wash., April 24, 2003 — Some things just work better together. A mouse and a keyboard. The connectivity of e-mail and the power of the Internet. Database servers, operating systems and development tools.
In recognition of how strong software can work better together as a team, Microsoft launches new versions of Windows Server, Visual Studio ..NET and SQL Server today. Microsoft product teams took an integrated approach to the new releases to offer powerful technology that eases and expedites the development of new applications while improving server and database performance.
“We built these products to help solve IT and business challenges our customers are facing,” says Bill Veghte, corporate vice president with Microsoft’s Windows Servers Group. “Businesses need to reduce costs to accommodate shrinking budgets. At the same time they need to respond faster to changing market conditions and customer requests. There is a real demand to deliver connected, highly manageable applications.”
In addition to manageability and connectivity, Veghte says that security and scalability are at the top of the wish lists of today’s businesses. To illustrate the importance of security and scalability throughout a technology infrastructure, Veghte draws on the example of banks that work with credit card companies. Security is paramount. The database that stores the data, the applications that exchange the data among banks, credit companies and customers and the environment in which that data is exchanged — the operating system — all need high levels of security. Without security, the confidence of customers and business and trading partners — not to mention money and sensitive identity information — could easily be lost, or, at best, seriously compromised.
“We’ve built security in as a fundamental component of Windows Server 2003, Visual Studio .NET 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit),” says Veghte. “Security has become an increasingly important consideration, and Microsoft has responded by offering tools developers need to develop and deploy secure applications. The single security model that spans the underlying platform makes it easier and more efficient for IT administrators to manage their server infrastructure. In addition to secure applications, in developing today’s releases we focused on providing an infrastructure and a means for more securely connecting people to their networks and the applications they rely on.”
Then there’s scalability. It used to be that only employees regularly accessed a company’s technology. But today, a company’s IT systems must also often accommodate customers and business partners. With business being conducted around the world at all hours day and night, the technology needs to be able to stand up to the erratic ebb and flow of Web traffic.
“The scalability enhancements we’ve made will add significant value for IT professionals, businesses whose livelihood depends on technology that can accommodate varying levels of traffic and the customers who patronize those businesses,” says Veghte. “The ability to be highly scalable is a huge benefit of a technology infrastructure that has interoperability at its core.”
Interoperability is another chief concern for business, especially when working with customer information. If systems aren’t able to share data, such as when a customer calls their bank and keys in an account number, only to have to read it all over again when someone in the call center takes the call, it can be a frustrating experience for customers that can impact a business’ bottom line.
Three Products Working Together
Windows Server 2003 plays a strong role in meeting the demands of business today with some of the most advanced application services available. The system tightly integrates platform services, XML Web services and the .NET Framework, which is an expressive programming model. “Windows Server 2003 has the muscle our customers, partners and independent software vendors need to build, deploy and manage all kinds of applications, including the increasingly important XML Web services,” says Veghte.
With a plethora of enhancements and new capabilities, Windows Server 2003 was built to deliver several key benefits. Windows Server 2003, Veghte says, is highly scalable in order to accommodate the shifting level of demand today’s businesses often face. Windows Server 2003 is engineered to be secure by default, design and deployment. With enhanced reliability and unprecedented speed, the operating system, Veghte says, is Microsoft’s most dependable one to date.
With Windows Server 2003, customers have found they’re able to run their server infrastructures 30 percent more efficiently. With built-in support for the entire application lifecycle, applications can be built in half the time with twice the performance.
Windows Server 2003 also provides the tools necessary for network infrastructures to be deployed, managed and used for maximum productivity. Windows Server 2003 can deliver a new level of connectivity by helping join customers, employees, partners and systems. The fourth primary benefit, Veghte says, is that Windows Server 2003, when combined with products and services from Microsoft’s many hardware, software and channel partners, delivers the greatest return on infrastructure investments.
To address the challenges today’s developers face in the areas of connectivity, scalability and beyond, Microsoft developed Visual Studio ..NET 2003. “The typical application lifecycle used to be between 18 and 24 months,” says Tom Button, corporate vice president of Developer Tools. “Now, due to increased customer demands, applications need to be released and updated every six to nine months. For that reason, Visual Studio .NET 2003 was developed to ensure maximum developer productivity in building, deploying, and managing applications.”
The key capabilities of the initial release of Visual Studio .NET — XML Web service support, application security and a high degree of scalability — are still central. But Visual Studio .NET 2003, Button says, features key enhancements made to improve the developer and user experience.
By using a single programming model for building Windows, Web and mobile applications, Button says Visual Studio .NET 2003 will improve developer productivity by allowing them to develop different types of applications using the same set of skills. “This drastically reduces retraining costs and enables developers to transfer their skills across the various types of applications,” he says.
In addition to developer productivity, Visual Studio .NET 2003 continues its focus on the rapidly evolving world of Web services. “Visual Studio .NET 2003 incorporates the latest industry standards for XML Web services, enabling developers to overcome challenges around application integration,” Button says.
Visual Studio .NET 2003, according to Button, raises the bar with the high level of connectivity it delivers. “Data is the oxygen of the information age,” he says. “Developers need to pull data for a variety of sources, so we’ve made sure that accessing data in Visual Studio .NET 2003 doesn’t cause a bottleneck situation in the software.”
Button added that Visual Studio .NET 2003 is about more than writing code. “It provides tools for software architects,” he says. “Integrated software modeling tools and the Enterprise Instrumentation Framework will help developers and architects build software for maximum security, scalability and manageability.”
Rounding out the trio is Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64-bit). “The bottom line is that it’s a solid business investment,” says Gordon Mangione, corporate vice president, Microsoft SQL Server. “SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64-bit) is a more scalable database that hosts more user databases and more applications The real win for businesses as they grow their enterprise and their applications is that they don’t have to live with the fear of hitting a ceiling and not being able to go any further.”
Mangione says that enhancements to SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64-bit) increase the ability to do parallel data processing — a process that handles more data more quickly — and to store and aggregate more data that answer more business questions. The enhanced processing capabilities allow a national grocery store chain, for example, to empower a larger amount of users on a single server to analyze, compare and contrast sales of a product brand or SKU over multiple business perspectives such as time, geography, location, etc.
Mangione says enhancements to SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64-bit) also make data more compatible and easier to migrate. The business value of that, he adds, is that businesses don’t have to start over. “Connectivity is key to the product architecture,” he says. “That means that development work that’s been done previously is supported by SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit). Just move it over and it will run.”
Mangione says that he is particularly pleased with the joint effort that culminates in today’s three releases. “It’s a great example of the investment Microsoft makes as a company,” he says. “We have a group of distinguished engineers who are world-class experts. The teams driving the development of SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64 bit), Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2003 have partnered with one another to determine what key things should be built in each of the products. Our customers will benefit from working with a company like Microsoft that’s committed to really understanding their challenges and their goals.”
Customers Put Microsoft Technology to the Test
Customers working with pre-release versions of Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and Microsoft SQL Server 64-bit say that the technology trio is meeting their demands.
“When Microsoft builds a new version of its operating system, it always includes a myriad of improvements,” says Jeff Cohen, vice president and chief information officer with JetBlue Airways, an airline that’s been lauded for offering great customer service on a price-controlled model. Or, in Cohen’s words, “Low-cost, high-touch.”
Windows Server 2003, Cohen says, defines JetBlue Airways’ computing environment. SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64-bit) takes care of data warehousing, handling tasks like running the company’s frequent-flier program. And Visual Studio .NET 2003 is the exclusive language for JetBlue’s 20 developers who juggle between 40 and 50 projects. “If you add up all three products, it’s a powerful package,” he says.
The Windows Server 2003 operating system is robust, he says. It handles memory better, and it’s a highly manageable and reliable environment in which to develop. Active Directory is better. And he’s definitely seen performance gains.
With data that’s more readily accessible, JetBlue’s Web site is a faster, friendlier experience for customers. For potential employees, the “Work Here” feature — developed with Visual Studio .NET 2003 — eases and expedites the process of applying online. For JetBlue employees, the travel request system on the company’s Intranet handles arrangements and offers practical information such as the per diem expenses for different destinations. The ease of the development process in Visual Studio .NET 2003, Cohen says, allowed his team to get the site up and running quickly and efficiently. And the interoperability among the operating system and database server make it easy to manage and maintain.
For security purposes, developers on Cohen’s team produced a crew member verification program. Gate personnel enter the employee’s code into a system where it interacts with employee-specific data in SQL Server Enterprise Edition 64-bit to verify that they are in good standing with the airline before they board.
And for more efficient freight shipping, JetBlue took advantage of the power of Visual Studio .NET 2003 to build a tracking system. Freight is scanned when it is loaded and again when it’s unloaded; technology does the rest in terms of managing what’s where, and when. Cohen says he used to spend a lot of time sending e-mail to various JetBlue destinations in search of lost packages. “I don’t do that anymore,” he says. “At all.”
JetBlue, Cohen says, is definitely in take-off mode. The company has 42 jets today but plans to grow the fleet to 54 by the end of the year. In addition to the 22 destinations it currently serves, JetBlue will land in Atlanta in May, San Diego in June and more beyond. The company is adding five employees per day to its current roster of 4,500. “We’re growing, so scalability is critical,” he says. “And Microsoft’s technology is up to it.”
Microsoft Technology Goes Back to School
The technology trio has also proven itself in more grounded environments.
The Cornell Theory Center is a high-performance computing and interdisciplinary research center located on the Ithaca, N.Y. campus of Cornell University. “What makes Cornell a leading research institution is that we have great facilities, one of which is the computational facilities,” says David Lifka, the center’s chief technical officer.
The research conducted at Cornell is broad. On any given day, engineers may diagnose the crash-test worthiness of automobiles, bioinformatics researchers might conduct sequence matching and someone from the business school might need to run risk analysis on a hypothetical investment portfolio.
The common thread at the Cornell Theory Center, Lifka says, is the demand for supercomputing, or high-performance computing. Supercomputing requires a large technological infrastructure — either one enormous computer or several smaller ones — that can handle programs that require an inordinate amount of data, intense number crunching or both. “The kind of computing we’re doing typically cannot be performed on the desktop or a laptop,” Lifka says. “We need power.”
And the technology from Microsoft, he says, delivers that power.
Working in unison, Lifka says, the three technologies create a completely integrated development environment. “What’s really cool about Windows Server 2003, for example, is that the .NET technology is baked in,” he says. “Instead of having to install extra pieces of software it’s all right there. Web services, seamless access to client serve applications, the enabling technologies like cluster load balancing — they’re all there. And they’re reliable and secure.”
Visual Studio .NET 2003, according to Lifka, simplifies and speeds up the process of writing, installing and running applications. “For example, it gives us all the tools and resources to write a Web service that will perform calculations on different data sets,” he says. “With an application built with Visual Studio .NET 2003, a user simply goes to the Web form, enters the data and orders the calculations. If the Web service has to look at historical data, part of the .NET framework will automatically query SQL Server Enterprise Edition (64-bit) and get the data on the fly. Visual Studio .NET tools interface nicely with the database, and the code runs on Windows Server 2003.”
The server’s high scalability, he says, is also beneficial. “We have four terabytes of database storage served by eight linked SQL servers,” he says. “This provides faster write access to users by allowing the DB admin to distribute the data across multiple servers while still providing the end user with the appearance that they only have to access one server.”
Other benefits realized by the Microsoft technology infrastructure include improved performance, improved productivity due to the use of standardized technology, and improved manageability.
Finally, the center’s “database-centric” approach allows for the real-time monitoring of computational resources and allows visualization of results, which supports what Lifka calls the Holy Grail of high powered computing — computational steering.
Steering is the ability to monitor and manage complex analyses and simulations as they’re happening, and then use the results to make decisions about how to proceed with the ongoing computation. “It used to be that you’d run code and then two weeks later realize that you’d made a mistake,” he says. “You’d lost two weeks of valuable time. Now, you can see if you’ve made a mistake and correct it right away.”
While Lifka’s use of the technology is decidedly academic, he says the parallels between the computing challenges faced by the Cornell Theory Center and businesses are hard to miss. If genes can be identified quickly, discoveries can be made faster. “The ability to do things at a greater speed gives us a competitive advantage,” he says. “If this technology solves the complex problems we ask it to, I have no doubt in its ability to solve business problems.”