Introduction to Windows .NET Server

Introduction to Windows .NET Server


May 20, 2002

by Jason Zandri
www.2000trainers.com

The idea behind this article is to give an overview of the Windows .NET Standard Server installation procedure as it is currently laid out under the current build, which is BETA 3 - Build 3590.main.011110-1652. This will eventually lead to Release Candidate versions and the final (GOLD) release.

The information contained within this article is based solely on my experience with the BETA product, and the information given, such as minimum system requirements and installation procedures, are current at the time of writing (May 8th 2002). As with all products in development, all of the following is subject to change.

Please assume that when I mention "Windows .NET Standard Server" within this article, I am speaking specifically of "Windows .NET Standard Server BETA 3 - Build 3590.main.011110-1652" unless otherwise mentioned.

 

Windows .NET Server Family Versions

  • Windows .NET Web Server is designed specifically for Web hosting environments, providing a specific platform for deploying Web services and applications.

  • Windows .NET Standard Server is designed specifically for the everyday needs of the average business and is the progressive replacement for the Windows NT4 Server / Windows 2000 Server line.

  • Windows .NET Enterprise Server is designed specifically for the general purpose needs of slightly larger customers, as their needs surpass the functional levels of Windows .NET Standard Server. Enterprise Server is the progressive replacement for the Windows NT4 Server Enterprise Edition / Windows 2000 Advanced Server line.

  • Windows .NET Datacenter Server is designed specifically for high-end hardware deployments for use on business-critical and mission-critical applications where the highest levels of scalability and availability are required. Windows .NET Datacenter Server is the progressive replacement for the Windows 2000 Datacenter Server line of operating systems.

 

Hardware Requirements for Windows .NET Standard Server.

  • The minimum system requirements for Windows .NET Standard Server is as follows:

  • The minimum supported processor speed is 133 MHz

  • The minimum recommended processor speed is 550 MHz

  • Windows .NET Standard Server supports a maximum of two CPUs per server

  • The minimum amount of RAM supported is 128MB

  • The minimum amount of RAM recommended is 256MB

  • The maximum amount of RAM supported by Windows .NET Standard Server is 4GB

The minimum amount of space required for installation is approximately 1.5 GB. Additional space may be required under the following circumstances:

  • When a FAT16 partition is in use, it requires 100 MB to 200 MB more free disk space than other supported file systems. NTFS is the recommended file system for any Server deployment, .NET or otherwise.

  • If you are installing Windows .NET Standard Server from a network share, you will need approximately 100 MB to 200 MB more space than if you ran the Setup from the CDROM.

  • The amount of disk space required for the swapfile will affect the size of the initial partition as it is directionally proportional to the amount of physical memory installed in the system, in that the more physical RAM installed the larger the swapfile will need to be.

  • VGA or higher-resolution monitor is required and an SVGA 800x600 or higher is recommended.

    Keyboard and mouse (or other pointing device) are also on the minimum requirements list.

    The optional hardware list includes items such as CD-ROMs or DVD drives, which are only required if a local installation is to be performed or it is otherwise deemed necessary. The optional hardware list also includes a listing for network adapters and related cables from the Hardware Compatibility List. (Personally, I don't see how you can have a server product and list a network connectivity peripheral as an optional requirement, but that is what is printed.)

    Here is the table of all of the different requirement levels of the Windows .NET Server family as provided from Microsoft on their website. There is also an additional table on the site comparing the major features for each version.

    Beta 3 System Requirements as of November 11, 2001

    Requirement Web Server Standard Server Enterprise Server Datacenter Server
    Minimum CPU Speed 133 MHz 133 MHz 133 MHz for x86-based computers

    733 MHz for Itanium-based computers

    400 MHz for x86-based computers

    733 MHz for Itanium-based computers

    Recommended CPU Speed 550 MHz 550 MHz 733 MHz 733 MHz
    Minimum RAM 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB 512 MB
    Recommended Minimum RAM 256 MB 256 MB 256 MB 1 GB
    Maximum RAM 2 GB 4 GB 32 GB for x86-based computers

    64 GB for Itanium-based computers

    64 GB for x86-based computers

    128 GB for Itanium-based computers

    Multi-Processor Support 1 or 2 1 or 2 Up to 8 Minimum 8 required

    Maximum 32

    Disk Space for Setup 1.5 GB 1.5 GB 1.5 GB for x86-based computers

    2.0 GB for Itanium-based computers

    1.5 GB for x86-based computers

    2.0 GB for Itanium-based computers

    You can view the current Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) at the Microsoft Web site, or you can FTP the text files for the desired Operating System. (I could not currently find any listing for the BETA versions of Windows .NET Standard Server for FTP download.)

    A Windows .NET Server Family Beta 3 Technical Overview can also be found on the Microsoft website as well.


    If you elect to upgrade your current Server Operating system you need to be aware that the Setup program will automatically install Windows .NET Standard Server into the same folder as the currently installed operating system, regardless of its naming convention.

    You can perform direct upgrades to Windows .NET Standard Server from the following versions of Windows:

  • Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 5 or later

  • Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, with Service Pack 5 or later. (Even though Setup will allow the upgrade, Windows .NET Standard Server will not allow for the same level of terminal services that was previously provided by Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition. If you want the same level of Terminal Server functionality you will need to upgrade to Windows .NET Enterprise Server, not Windows .NET Standard Server.)
     
  • Windows 2000 Server, on a computer with one or two processors. While Windows 2000 Server supports 4 processors, Windows .NET Standard Server does not.

  • You cannot upgrade from Windows 9x, ME, Windows NT Workstation, Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Home and Professional directly to Windows .NET Server BETA 3. (Clean installations from within those existing operating systems to other partitions or over, as in overwrite, are allowed.) Also, if you have Windows NT 4.0 Server Enterprise Edition, you can upgrade to Windows .NET Enterprise Server but not Windows .NET Standard Server. Service Pack 5 or later is still a requirement. If you have a version of Windows NT earlier than 4.0, such as Windows NT Server 3.x, you cannot upgrade directly to any product in the Windows .NET Server family. You can first upgrade to Windows NT 4.0 and apply Service Pack 5 and then perform a direct upgrade if desired.

    You can to confirm that your hardware is compatible with Windows .NET Server by running a pre-installation compatibility check from the Setup CD.

    Typing <CDROM DRIVE>\i386\winnt32 /checkupgradeonly either from a command line or the RUN box will launch the Setup Wizard to perform only a system check of the current hardware from within an existing operating system.



    The results screen will appear with any pertinent information after a few moments.

    Regardless of whether you intentionally run the pre-installation compatibility check step ahead of time or not, the Setup Wizard checks hardware and software compatibility at the beginning of a "standard" installation or upgrade and displays a report if there are any known incompatibilities.

    If you insert the installation disk into the CDROM drive and autorun is enabled, the Welcome screen shown below will appear and allow you to either attempt an upgrade or a clean installation, as well as perform any additional tasks or to check system compatibility.



    If you elect to perform a "manual" system compatibility check, you are allowed to either run the check against the local database (the CDROM) or to visit the compatibility web site. (The compatibility web site offered no information on Windows .NET Server at the time of this writing.)



    As you can see, an error is generated as I am not allowed to upgrade from Windows XP Professional to Windows .NET Standard Server.



    Again, this does not prevent you from installing Windows .NET Standard Server as a clean install in this particular instance.

     

    Installing Windows .NET Standard Server (BETA 3)

    After performing the standard BIOS configurations to allow booting from the CDROM you can load the bootable disk and begin the installation.

    The first screen you'll see will be the black Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration. (If there is an active partition on any of the installed hard drives in the system, you will see a "Press any key to boot from the CD" message before you reach this screen. If you do not hit a key before the timeout, the CDROM will be bypassed in favor of your local active partition.)

    From here, Setup continues to the Windows .NET Server Setup screen where all of the drivers are loaded.



    After the drivers load, the Windows Setup screen appears and Setup copies the required temporary files to the local hard drive after you acknowledge the location of the setup files.



    After the file copy is complete, the Setup Program will append any existing boot.ini file (or write a new one) and will reboot and continue the installation from the locally copied temporary files.

    After the system restarts and continues past the splash screen, you'll arrive at the Windows .NET Standard Server Setup screen where you will select ENTER to continue with the normal installation. (This is also where you would be able to repair a failed installation using the Recovery Console.)



    You will then arrive at the partition selection screen. The hardware layout of your system and whether or not you have any existing partitions installed will affect what this screen displays. In my example, I already have formatted partitions and two other operating systems installed. I pre-named the partition where I wanted to install the Windows .NET Standard Server, (NETSERVER), so I have selected it and hit enter. (Other options include deleting existing partitions and creating new ones from free space or recently deleted partitions, as listed in the image below.)



    After selecting the partition and hitting ENTER, I am brought to the file system selection screen as shown below. Here I can choose to convert my FAT32 partition to NTFS or to leave it as is. (I can always perform CONVERT after the operating system is installed as well.)



    I selected to convert the partition by arrowing up the menu one space and hitting ENTER, which brought me to the conversion screen, shown below.



    I hit 'C' to perform the process of converting the drive to NTFS, which will happen at the next reboot.

    Setup continues from here by copying files from the temporary location on the hard drive to the default installation folder <DRIVE LETTER>\Windows. As with Windows XP Professional, you can only select the installation path drive letter and not the name of the systemroot folder during a standard installation. (If you use an unattended setup file you can then include a path designation other than WINDOWS.)

    When this section of the file copy is finished, the system will reboot. Upon restart the FAT32 partition will be formatted with the NTFS file system and the system will reboot again.


    Once the system comes up again the GUI will engage and display the current status of the final phases of setup.



    During this attended installation, the Setup program will pause for needed user input, such as the Regional and Language Option page as shown below.



    After making any changes or accepting the defaults, Setup will continue to the "Personalize your Software" screen, where you would enter your personal information as you would like it to be shown on subsequent software installs. (This is the information that populates automatically in the name and organization fields of all the software installed on the system from this point forward.)

    After this point you are directed to choose a licensing mode for your Windows .NET Standard Server.

    All of the Windows .NET Servers support either Per Seat or Per Server licensing.

    When you choose the Per Seat licensing, each computer that needs to access a server running Windows .NET Server requires a separate Client Access License (CAL). With client side licensing, clients can connect to any number of servers running products in the Windows .NET Server family or downlevel Windows Operating systems. Client side licensing is the most commonly used licensing
    method for companies with many servers.

    Per Server licensing means that each concurrent connection to the server requires a separate CAL. This means that the server can support a fixed number of connections at any one time. Whether or not the clients have a license or not doesn't come into play. The server will only be allowed to "serve" the number of concurrent connections allowed under its Per Server licensing configuration. (Think of this along the lines of, "It doesn't matter how many people in the lobby want to pay to see the movie, there are only so many seats.")

    Per Server licensing mode is often preferred by small companies with only one or two servers.

    You can perform a one-time change from Per Server mode to Per Seat mode at any given time after installation, but this is a one shot, one way only operation for the most part. Once performed, there is no way of practically reversing it, short of re-installing the Operating System or paying a transfer fee of some sort. (I keep seeing that as a reference, paying to perform the function of converting from Per Seat back to Per Server, but I haven't read much about what's involved and documentation on it seems non-existent.)

    After you have made your licensing choice and continued, the next window that will prompt you for information will be the Computer Name and Administrator Password screen where you will choose the name of the system. (Setup will autogenerate a name and you can use it if you wish.)

    Computer names should be 15 characters or less, and they can contain letters (A through Z), numbers (0 through 9), and hyphens (-), but no spaces or periods (.). While the names can contain numbers, they cannot consist entirely of numbers.

    The maximum allowable length for a computer name is 63 characters. While names longer than 15 characters are permitted, computers running operating systems earlier than Windows 2000 will recognize systems only by the first 15 characters of the name only and this may cause certain network naming and resolution issues.

    This same screen is where you will need to enter the password to be used with the default Administrator account.

    For security reasons you should supply a password for the Administrator account. If you are allowed to leave the Administrator password blank and continue, this would tell the system that there is no password for this account and this is very insecure to have in any environment.

    Passwords can have up to 127 characters, but this is impractical and cumbersome to remember. It is recommended that passwords have at least 7 characters, and they should contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and other allowed special characters such as *  ? : ; @ or $ to name a few.

    After entering the password and verifying it, you would select NEXT to continue and arrive to the screen where you can set the date, time, and time zone settings. This is also where you would specify whether the system should automatically adjust for daylight saving time or not.

    The next screen is the Specifying Networking Settings where you can allow the Typical Settings to be applied. You can also elect to Customize the settings now as well. (You are always free to customize the network settings after the operating system is loaded and under normal operation.)

    There are a few changes to the Network Protocol additional settings options in the Windows .NET Server family, as you can see in the image below.



    Most noticeable is the addition of the Reliable Multicast Protocol as well as support for Microsoft TCP/IP version 6.

    The next step of the installation process after Specifying Networking Settings is the Specifying the Workgroup or Domain Name screen where you would choose to either have your Windows .NET Server be a standalone server in a workgroup or a member server in a domain.

    If you are going to add the server to an existing domain you would need to supply the necessary credentials at this time if an account for the server hadn't already been created.

    If you choose to add the server to a workgroup you need only to supply the name of the workgroup.

    This is the final interactive step. The Setup program will continue for a few more minutes on its own. Once it has completed, the setup program will reboot the server and upon restart it will await user input at the logon screen.

    The Configure Your Server Wizard appears on the screen the first time you log on locally to the server with the administrator account.

    You can enable the Configure Your Server Wizard to finish installing optional components that you chose during setup or add additional components as well. There are options to configure domain controllers or member servers, file servers, print servers, Web and media servers, application servers, and networking and communications servers, all through this wizard.

    After clicking NEXT on the Wizard Welcome screen, you are brought to the Preliminary Steps screen, shown below, where you can read over some of the steps that you should have already performed.



    Once you continue past the network detection screen (shown below), you will arrive at the Server Role screen.



    From this screen you can set up specific services that you wish to host from your Windows .NET Standard Server.



    For this walkthrough I have selected to set up a web server via Internet Information Services 6.0 by highlighting it and selecting NEXT.

    The next screen will prompt me as to whether I wish to install the Web user interface for Web server administration. I elected to do so and clicked NEXT to continue.



    Setup performs the selections I chose from the Configure Your Server Wizard screen and shows a summary screen when the process is complete. I selected FINISH to close the window.

    One of the first things you'll notice that's different in the Windows .NET Server family of servers is that everything on them is disabled or not configured by default, which is a huge departure from times past.

    For example, when you go to launch the IIS6 MMC for the first time after the installation of the web service, the first thing to appear is the Web Server Security Lockdown Wizard.



    As you can see in the next image below, you are given the option to CHOOSE whether the web service (via the HTTP: setting) should start automatically when the server starts or if it should wait for manual intervention.



    You will also note that we got just what we asked for -- Web server services only from IIS6. There is no FTP, no SMTP and no NNTP because these were not selected at the time of our initial installation.

    You'll also note in the image below that the only request handler that is enabled by default is Active Server Pages. Everything else is disabled by not having a configuration setting.



    After continuing from here the tool makes these settings final and displays a summary on the completion screen where you can select FINISH to exit.


    Product Activation

    Windows .NET Standard Server is like any other current Microsoft product when it comes to product activation.

    All current versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Operating systems require that you activate the product either via the internet or through a telephone call to Microsoft.

    If you do not activate the software it will shut down in 30 days and either run in limited operating mode, as in the case of Office XP, or not at all, as in the case of Windows XP and the Windows .NET Server family. (Windows .NET Standard Server BETA 3 has a 14-day activation window. This is a common timeline for beta products. This beta software will also expire in 180 days, regardless of activation status. Again, this is a common timeline for beta products.)

    Once you open the product activation program the first screen you will see is as follows:



    You can see that you have the option to activate over the internet or over the phone. After you make your selection and continue, you are presented with the Microsoft REGISTRATION screen. This is NOT a mandatory function and it can be skipped by simply selecting NO and then clicking on NEXT to complete the product activation from the previous screen.



    Once this is complete you will arrive at the THANK YOU screen and you can close it. Your product will be fully activated for your use on that specific system.

     

    Well, that wraps up my Introduction to Windows .NET Standard Server (BETA 3) article. I hope you found it informative and will return to 2000trainers for all of your technical reading needs.

    If you have any questions, comments or even constructive criticism, please feel free to drop me a note.

    I want to write solid technical articles that appeal to a large range of readers and skill levels and I can only be sure of that through your feedback.

    Until the next time, remember,


    "Security isn't about risk avoidance, it's about risk management."


    Jason Zandri
    Jason@Zandri.net

    www.2000trainers.com