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Windows Terminals fall short

The NT software will ship on time, but those looking to get the most out of their computing hardware may not be so pleased.

NEW ORLEANS--Microsoft will ship its software for centralized corporate computing on time, but anyone looking to get the most out of their computing hardware may not be pleased with the caveats.

As reported by CNET NEWS.COM, the announcement of delivery of Windows Terminal Server, formerly code-named Hydra, at PC Expo in two weeks will formally launch the software giant's so-called thin client strategy to subvert growth in the network computer market with a version of NT that can provide centralized server-based application delivery to all forms of Windows machines, including the emerging market of Windows Terminals.

But shipment of the first version of Windows Terminal Server will come with shortcomings. Microsoft's server-side applications have been individually tested on systems running WTS, but the company will recommend that customers run only one component of the company's BackOffice suite of software with the WTS version of NT, according to John Frederiksen, Microsoft group product manager for server OS marketing.

Furthermore, any networked situation in which more than 15 simultaneous clients are taking advantage of WTS's server-side approach to client application delivery should not be mixed with another application, such as a database or messaging system, Frederiksen said.

Microsoft's WTS will support between 15 to 25 concurrent client sessions per processor, according to the company, resulting in support for 100 users on a typical four-way system.

The WTS technology will encompass all types of Windows clients. Partner Citrix Systems will fill in the missing pieces with add-on technology called MetaFrame that will handle server-based application delivery to other forms of clients, such as NCs and Unix workstations, among others. That technology will ship in conjunction with the delivery of WTS.

A Microsoft spokesman refused to comment on the delivery of WTS. A final beta program for Windows Terminal Server started in March with executives promising shipment by the end of June.

Using the WTS version of NT 4.0, a company can host a variety of common desktop applications--like those found in Microsoft Office--on a server, with a client machine basically serving as a window to the program running on the back-end system. In this environment, PCs running the 32-bit Windows 95 or older 16-bit Windows 3.x operating systems can use the computing power of a server.

The initial version of WTS is essentially a refined take on the Windows NT Server operating system, with Microsoft tweaking the central "kernel" code used as the base for the software. Future versions of WTS will run as an add-on service to Windows NT, starting with the delivery of Windows NT Server 5.0, due early next year.

In its initial release, WTS will also not support Microsoft's backup "clustering" software techniques, relying on a load-balancing add-on from Citrix that will require connections to be reestablished with a new server, Frederiksen said.

Though no pricing information was available, Frederiksen said: "We expect to price Terminal Server the same way we price Windows in a networked environment." That situation would attach a separate price tag to each server component, client access license, and client operating system license.

The combination of all the software components plus what is likely to be a dedicated server system for the tasks boosts the total cost of being able to roll out centralized application delivery. The cost of Citrix's software, which has provided a portion of the code base for WTS, has long been an issue for some users.