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MS Viper activated

Microsoft ships a key piece of server technology that it says will make heavy-duty Net-based applications a reality.

Microsoft (MSFT) today shipped a key piece of server technology that it says will make heavy-duty Net-based applications a reality.

Microsoft Transaction Server 1.0, formerly code-named Viper, merges transaction processing technology for managing high-volume applications, such as airline reservation systems, with object request broker tools for tracking software components based on the company's ActiveX technology.

The software, part of Microsoft's Active Server technologies just now rolling out, could make a new generation of intranet applications possible. While many current intranet applications offer little more than a Web face to existing client-server and mainframe applications, new intranet applications built using Transaction Server can be made rugged enough to replace older systems.

Transaction Server manages hundreds, even thousands, of client requests for data against back-end databases. While similar tools called transaction monitors have existed for years on mainframe and Unix systems, they needed specialized client software, cost thousands of dollars, and required highly trained programmers in order to build applications. Transaction Server costs $2,000 per server, with no client software or license fees required, and is targeted at the growing legions of Visual Basic, Visual C++, and Visual J++ developers. Other tool makers are expected to pledge their support.

Transaction Server is tuned for Microsoft's SQL Server database, ActiveX, and Windows NT, but the tool will also eventually work with databases from Sybase, Informix Software, and IBM, all of which pledged support for the new software.

Conspicuously absent from the list of database makers supporting Transaction Server is Oracle, the market leader. James Utzschneider, a product manager in server development at Microsoft, said the company has not decided if it will support Transaction Server, but Microsoft will provide support for Oracle databases with or without the company's blessing. "Applications will run much faster if we get support from Oracle" though, he said.

Applications written in Java will also work with Transaction Server, he added.

A 120-day trial release of Transaction Server will be posted to Microsoft's Web site by week's end, said Utzschneider. The downloadable version is approximately 10MB in size. The 1.0 version of the tool will ship in January as a separately priced member of Microsoft's BackOffice server software lineup.

Support for databases from Sybase, IBM, and Informix is planned via a service pack upgrade to Transaction Server, slated to ship early next year, according to Utzschneider. The service pack will add support for the XA application programming interface, a standard interface to transaction processing monitors.

Another key piece of the Active Server family, a messaging technology code-named Falcon, is expected to ship by mid-1997, said Utzschneider. Falcon lets occasionally connected users and systems take part in transactional applications.

The next step, he said, is to enable large-scale deployment of applications on clustered systems, which will allow Windows NT applications to match current mainframe and large systems in sheer horsepower. Software to balance applications across multiple clustered servers is now in development at Microsoft, he added.