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Upscale Windows 2000 heads to testers

Next week, about 300 large companies will begin testing Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the final piece of Microsoft's Windows 2000 lineup

Next week, about 300 large companies will begin testing the final piece of Microsoft's Windows 2000 lineup.

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the high-end version of the operating system intended for large corporate servers, will land on the doorsteps of testers next week, the company said.

Datacenter Server is the fourth and final Windows 2000 version to enter testing. The other versions--Windows 2000 Professional, Server and Advanced Server--entered testing earlier this year and are expected to ship by year's end. Datacenter Server is not expected to ship until next year.

Overall, Windows 2000 is intended to boost the operating system's ability to support larger applications. Microsoft has said the operating system will include a wide range of new features, such as support for clusters of computer systems that boost processing power, load balancing for better reliability, and up to 32 processors for overall faster PC performance.

The operating system, which will replace Windows NT, has been in development for years, and its debut has been delayed numerous times.

Like other versions of Windows 2000, Datacenter Server will support planned virtual private networking services.

Datacenter Server is targeted at the most demanding business applications. Microsoft has yet to crack this crucial market, which is dominated by servers running various versions of Unix, and by mainframe computer systems.

Windows NT currently leads the server operating system pack with 38 percent of total units shipped, beating out Novell's NetWare, with 24 percent market share, and Unix, with 18 percent. But sales of Unix--which can support thousands of users--reached $2.5 billion last year, while NT sales amounted to roughly $1.4 billion.

Datacenter Server supports 4-node clustering, and includes tools to allocate system resources. It also supports cluster, network load balancing, up to 32-way symmetric multiprocessing servers, 32 gigabytes of system memory, and up to 32-node network load balancing, and other high-end features.

Microsoft is delivering the operating system in conjunction with server hardware makers.