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Microsoft unveils software for ISPs

The software giant announces a new version of a family of Internet servers for ISPs, hosting services, and phone carriers.

Microsoft announced version 2.0 today of Microsoft Commercial Internet System (MCIS), a family of Internet servers for ISPs, hosting services, and phone carriers.

Part of Microsoft's BackOffice family, the MCIS suite of Internet-based server applications includes Internet access, Web hosting, and e-commerce software. It is slated to be released by summer.

The new version is more oriented to ISPs interested in hosting business applications than the previous one, released in March 1997 and geared toward ISPs providing consumer dial-up services, according to Anthony Bay, general manager of Microsoft's commercial systems division.

"We are not just entering this market," Bay said. "We've been developing products for two and a half years." While version 1.0 found its greatest success outside North America, Microsoft and distribution partners Digital Equipment and Compaq expect version 2.0 to do well in the United States too.

Version 2.0 is targeted at ISPs and other service providers who handle outsourcing of business applications for corporate customers and for hosting Web sites. Based on Windows NT version 4.0, the new edition of MCIS is designed to interoperate with Unix systems, which now dominate the national ISP market. It runs on Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0

New features include management tools, a community and registration server, and Microsoft's e-commerce server called Site Server, Commerce Edition 3.0. From version 1.0, it continues to offer hosting, email and a newsgroup server.

The email software remains a different code base from the latest version of Microsoft Exchange, but Bay said the next version of Exchange, code-named Platinum, will use the same code as MCIS version 2.0.

Although the number of ISPs offering Internet access has stagnated, the market for application hosting is expanding, Bay said, with the advent of virtual private networks and dial-up access popular applications.

"The [things] companies are willing to outsource are near the edge of the enterprise," said Bay, adding that 65 to 70 percent of business Web sites are outsourced. "It gets harder as applications are integrated into the line of business."

Rose Ann Giordano, vice president of Digital Equipment's ISP business, noted that MCIS runs both on Intel chips and on Digital's fast Alpha microprocessors, which give ISPs the 100 percent availability required by their customers. Digital recently announced a channel program for resellers who sell to ISPs.

Compaq Computer is focused on smaller ISPs and adds both third-party software and management tools on the servers it markets to ISPs. It also uses resellers and has been training both resellers and ISPs.