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MS starts network counterattack with BackOffice 4.5 beta

Remote management, remote consoles, remote configuration, automation... Win 2K, anyone?

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Microsoft has begun the counter-attack against its server rivals with the release of the beta of BackOffice Server 4.5, which addresses a range of weaknesses Novell and the Unix vendors have been exploiting in the absence of Windows 2000. Win 2K may not be with us for a while yet, but BackOffice Server 4.5 is due in the first half, and the beta features give us a clear idea of how Redmond intends to hold the line. The new version will include SQL Server 7.0 and Systems Management Server 2.0, and is intended to speed up and simplify the deployment and management of servers - for example, the company says that while previous versions involve going through up to 100 screens during deployment, with 4.5 the number will be down to 10-20. The SMS component - which is critical to Microsoft's Y2K strategy for business - helps in the detection of current configuration and in recommending component and service pack upgrades. BackOffice Server 4.5 also speeds up the setup process by providing default settings for common parameters, and allows managers to generate setup scripts automatically once they've established a standard server configuration. Historically Microsoft has been slow to introduce automation procedures for installation, and has therefore faced an uphill task in selling larger numbers of servers that need to be individually configured. Fewer, more easily managed platforms from rivals have often seemed a better bet, while NetWare 5's ability to manage from a single console and roll out updates to clients from there has been a major achilles heel for Microsoft. Aside from scripts, version 4.5 also includes a deployment wizard that allows IT managers to replicate a single server script across hundreds of servers automatically, updating machine names and parameter settings as it goes. It also includes a branch office setup system which will automatically default to the right settings for a remote location. Another critical feature for Microsoft is the addition of a management console which provides a single point of administration for common tasks, plus four other consoles optimised for entry-level helpdesk technicians, and Web, branch office, and central IT administrators. Improvements on the application server front are designed to make it easier to roll out and manage WinDNA architecture, including application server components such as a Web, email, collaboration, database and search server. This little lot may not add up to Win 2K, but it's certainly pointed in that direction. ®

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