It took years to get here. It will need years to evaluate, deploy, repair, and update. Windows 2000 Server may be the last of the comprehensive (it’s tempting to say monolithic) operating systems, but it is a very good representative of its kind. The changes, both fundamental and cosmetic, have made Windows 2000 Server (which also includes Advanced Server, and later this year will include Datacenter) faster, more reliable, heavier-duty, and easier to use.
That Windows 2000 Server is neither perfect nor an easy migration should be considered axiomatic. However, overall it is a major improvement, and the product pushes the envelope of competition with Unix (and now Linux) as the OS for the enterprise.
Look and Feel
It’s unusual to talk about a server operating system’s look and feel. Although network administrators like a good user interface as much he next person, a good user interface not only makes administration more comfortable but also faster. Windows 2000, while not consistently a shining model of design, has been reorganized and rationalized. As before, administrative services are most often accessed through the desktop version of Windows 2000 (Professional) that runs on the server. NT 4.0 Server users will appreciate the way most of the critical server functions (network, storage, and security) have been centralized. There are still several ways to access the administrative functions: the Control Panel is a holdover, Computer Management is an Explorer-like approach, and there is the new wizard-like Configure Your Server option. The latter is studded with help and support information that will be a boon to novice administrators. Within the management components, many of which are part of MMC (Microsoft Management Console), considerable reorganization makes accessing options less fragmented. Unfortunately, TCP/IP and other Internet features are still scattered.
Key New or Enhanced Features
It took years to get here. It will need years to evaluate, deploy, repair, and update. Windows 2000 Server may be the last of the comprehensive (it’s tempting to say monolithic) operating systems, but it is a very good representative of its kind.
If there were any questions about the length and breadth of changes in Windows 2000, Microsoft’s list of 36 new features would dispel it. There is no marketing puffery like “better performance” on the list, only named components such as TAPI 3.0 and Kerberos Protocol support. Explaining the list could take up the space allotted for this entire review, so we will confine our initial remarks to the features generally considered more significant.
Active Directory: At the top of everybody’s list is Active Directory. It is the good news/bad news of Windows 2000. An operating system directory service provides the means to record and organize the resources of a network (people, computers,and peripherals), control their security, and monitor their operation. The good news is that this information becomes much more accessible in Active Directory and is used throughout the operating system. In fact, it is required for features such as Kerberos authentication. The flip side is that directories require much planning and maintenance, and are best suited for organizations that have the appropriate staff.
Windows 2000 Server can run without Active Directory. This makes it suitable for small departmental single-server installations where a limited number of users need only limited services. There is an Active Directory Migration Wizard to move systems from Novell Directory Service (NDS). This may be wishful thinking on Microsoft’s part, since Active Directory is still too new to compete with NDS on all fronts.
Internet Information Server (IIS) 5.0: As before, Windows 2000 Server bundles the IIS Web server into the package; however, this time IIS is more tightly integrated. It is faster, more robust, and offers better support for another major feature, creating and maintaining virtual private networks. Also part of the Internet/intranet package is support for multimedia, including Windows Multimedia Services, Windows Quality of Service (to ensure that streaming multimedia receives necessary bandwidth), Resource Reservation Protocol, and asynchronous transfer mode support. Overall, this is an industry-leading collection of Internet features most useful for enterprise-level applications.
IntelliMirror: IntelliMirror is a suite of programs that preserves a user’s software configuration and preferences on the server and makes them available to any machine on the network. It is also involved with replacing missing application files. IntelliMirror works, but it is difficult to set up.
IntelliMirror is just one of many services that support the development and management of applications. New or improved transaction services, message queuing, TAPI 3.0, terminal services, and especially component services have given Windows 2000 server many of the attributes of an application server and substantially improved the environment for software developers — Java developers excepted.