August 2, 2000 1:40 PM PDT

Microsoft releases new e-commerce software

Microsoft today released the first public test version of Application Center 2000, new software for managing e-commerce sites.

The new software aims to simplify the task of testing and running Web-based software and helps ensure sites don't crash, Microsoft executives said today.

Like rivals Oracle, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others in the lucrative e-commerce software market, Microsoft is pitching a one-stop answer for businesses looking to set up e-commerce sites.

The strategy includes the Windows 2000 operating system and a family of forthcoming e-commerce software that includes the new Application Center 2000. The product family, recently renamed .Net Enterprise Servers, also includes SQL Server 2000 database, for storing and collecting corporate information; Exchange 2000 messaging software; and BizTalk Server, the company's XML-based software for linking different computing systems across the Internet.

Application Center 2000 software allows software developers to "cluster" their Web sites on high-end computers. Clustering is the ability to tie two or more computing systems for greater power and protection against failures.

The new product also offers "load balancing," or the ability to distribute transactions evenly, so the system doesn't become overloaded, said Garth Fort, Microsoft's group product manager for Application Center.

The product also monitors the health of computing systems, viewing them as if they were a single machine, Fort said. That way, the company's computer professionals can easily detect and fix problems when they arise, he said.

"Before they had this, they had to manually go from machine to update everything. It was time-consuming, laborious and not fun," Patricia Seybold Group analyst Michael Goulde said.

Fort said Application Center also simplifies the process for software developers to test and run Web-based software that powers e-commerce Web sites.

In the past, for example, software programmers had the arduous task of manually moving the software from one computing system to another to test new software and fix bugs. Application Center allows programmers to point and click to automatically duplicate the software on another computer for testing, he said.

Analysts say Application Center 2000 and the forthcoming high-end version of Windows 2000, called Windows 2000 Data Center, will be powerful and fast enough to run e-commerce Web sites.

Windows 2000 Data Center is designed to run on multiprocessor computing systems that sit at the heart of corporations and e-commerce Web sites, while Application Center 2000 spreads the workload evenly among the cluster of computers, Goulde said.

"This gives Microsoft a better story to customers who are trying to meet the heavy processing loads that the Web brings to bear," he said.

The first test version of the product was released a month ago but was not available to the general public. The final version of Application Center 2000 will ship by the fourth quarter in 2000 and will cost about $2,999 per processor.

Microsoft historically has charged companies per person who used the e-commerce software. Now Microsoft charges based on the number of processors used to run the software.

 

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