Report from PDC: Terminal Server futures and other cool stuff

By Tim Mangan, Founder, TMurgent Technologies I’m spending my week at the Microsoft geek-fest called the Professional Developer Conference (PDC). This is the conference Microsoft puts on for developers to show them how to use the new features and capabilities coming in Microsoft products.

By Tim Mangan, Founder, TMurgent Technologies

I’m spending my week at the Microsoft geek-fest called the Professional Developer Conference (PDC).  This is the conference Microsoft puts on for developers to show them how to use the new features and capabilities coming in Microsoft products. Today was “server day,” and the keynote featured Bob Muglia (Senior Vice president, Windows Server Division) discussing the futures for the servers.

Bob outlined the latest server schedule, which includes Windows Server 2003 R2 (currently in beta), that is to be released this year. Also highlighted was another major release of Windows Server 2003 in 2006, and finally “Longhorn” (the server version of Vista) in 2007. You can add to those dates your own speculation.

Included in R2 will be the new version of the .NET Framework (2.0), a common log file system, Active Directory enhancements, WS-Management (the new WMI), and MMC 3.0. Bob also mentioned—but did not describe—two new features for Terminal Server. One that he called “App Remoting” sounds suspiciously like published applications. Bob specifically referred to having the MMC console application running on the server from a client computer via a single click using Terminal Services. The other hint mentioned was having a “gateway” for remote access.

The 2006 version of Server 2003 will be released in conjunction with the Windows Vista desktop release. The timing is important so that we have server functionality matching that of the new client. This includes WinFX (the new programming API to supersede MFC), Monad (the new scripting language), and a new Compute Cluster (more on this later). Monad will be interesting to script kiddies because (over time) Microsoft will make available nearly all the functionality of their various MMC interfaces available to Monad scripts. 

The Compute Cluster is aimed at producing server farms that handle scientific, especially CPU intensive, applications. The client is a web browser and form for input/output, and jobs are submitted to the farm for processing. Microsoft also released (a limited availability) Beta version of the Compute Cluster today. Microsoft announced that they intended to enter the High Performance Computing market earlier this summer and this appears to be what they were hinting at.

In talking about the Longhorn Server, Microsoft showed IIS 7, which notably has improved configurability. No longer will you need to recycle the service just to change an application configuration.

For Terminal Services in Longhorn, Bob outlined, but did not describe, features including USB device support, MMC enhancements, access across firewalls, and “Publishing and Remoting.” At one point, he said (in reference to Terminal Servers) that “most servers won’t be deployed that way.”  I took this to mean that Microsoft believes that once developers use the new tools being made available by WinFX to redevelop applications, the need for terminal servers will disappear.  It seems they still don’t get it.

Also in Longhorn, but perhaps not in the first release, would be a Windows Hypervisor, supporting the Intel and AMD hardware-level efforts for Virtual Servers.

Finally, Bob talked about 64-bit. Without giving specifics, he indicated that they have been surprised at the increased performance they have seen by moving to 64-bit machines and just “throwing a bunch of memory at it.”  He committed that everything Microsoft is doing is for both 32- and 64-bit. Indeed nowhere at the conference, even in the detail nitty-gritty “here is how you write code to do this” sessions, has 32- or 64-bit differences been raised.

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How's going Brian,

I so wish I was there with you guys, I went last year, and it was awesome.

I keep myself up-to-date by watching the PDC videos and the interviews that the guys from Channel 9 are posting.

Will I see you at iForum?

take care buddy,

Gus Pinto
I kept trying all week to find someone from Microsoft to discuss R2 details. In spite of having 5 trillian employees there, I was always pointed towards a single employee to talk about terminal serivces -- and he kept not showing up to his appointed duty times in the lounge.

I will be trying to bring up some of the Betas before iForum (although I am a tad busy with other work to be announced there). But with R2, the Compute Server, Vista, Longhorn Server, and Office 12 betas (and betas for developer tools) there is an awful lot to look at.

Overall I would sumarize the week by saying that Microsoft is doing a masterfull job of keeping the developers interested in Microsoft while advancing the platform. It is quite a challange to do so. If they "throw everything out and start over", they put their entire business at risk. If they don't advance, everyone gets bored and play with Linux more.

The new directions will simplify develpment -- M$ providing much of the communications plumbing that developers labor to put in (along with bugs and security holes that M$ will actually do a better, not perfect, job) -- but at the same time limiting performance. Most of this stuff will take a long time to affect real systems, especially terminal servers (think years), but it is comming. Users will love all the flash, but we're gonna need lots and lots of CPUs and memory in our boxes.