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Expanded clustering for Windows NT

Windows NT Load Balancing Service allows users to cluster their network services across as many as 32 systems, adding scalability needed to handle major applications and server loads.

Microsoft today rolled out expanded clustering technology for Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise.

Windows NT Load Balancing Service allows customers to cluster their TCP/IP-based network services across up to 32 systems, which then appear as a single logical TCP/IP address space, adding the scalability needed to handle major applications and server loads, Microsoft claims.

The technology helps customers building Web-based applications, like e-commerce sites, corporate intranet server farms, streaming media services, virtual private networks (VPNs), and Internet service providers (ISPs).

Handling large applications and server loads has not been a strong point of the software titan's Windows NT Server operating system up to this point in its development.

However, this changed with the summer acquisition of Valence Research to tackle the booming market for large Web server system deployments.

Valence's technology--now called the Windows NT Load Balancing Service--will be integrated into the Enterprise Edition versions of NT 5.0 and will likely be offered as a stand-alone product with standard versions of NT 5.0, according to company executives.

"Customers are using Windows NT clustering services today to increase the reliability of their internal applications, system services, and databases," Edmund Muth, group product manager at Microsoft, said in a statement.

Microsoft has also taken another step in adding services to its already thick NT operating system and has all but admitted that making the operating system an attractive alternative to veteran Unix and mainframe software will continue to be an arduous and multifaceted undertaking.

The distributed design of the new WLBS enables administrators to provide services while conducting systems maintenance, server upgrades, and unplanned downtime, the company said.

The load-balancing segment has become a hot niche in recent months, with networking hardware and software start-ups like Alteon Networks and Holon Tech choosing to offer switching front-ends for collections of Web server systems that run specialized software.

Microsoft said the load balancing software is available as a free upgrade to licensees of its Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition software. The upgrade is posted to the company's Web site.