Aimed at Net-based online services, Internet service providers, and Web sites, Normandy is a family of nine Windows NT-based servers designed to help Web sites build online communities complete with features such as real-time chat, threaded discussion groups, and search functions. Normandy also includes servers that allows users to personalize a Web site, perform credit card transactions, and to look up other users in an online directory.
Microsoft has already shipped the second beta versions of all the Normandy servers to customers to what it is calling its "preview" customers, or a select group of beta testers. In addition to the News Server posted today, Microsoft plans to offer a beta version of its chat server by the middle of October, though it may reserve the other seven servers for private beta test with selected customers.
Microsoft executives said today that all the Normandy servers would interoperate with standard email, Usenet news, and Internet Relay Chat clients on other platforms besides Windows. Microsoft will also provide ActiveX Windows clients for its Normandy servers.
"We're totally client-independent," said Michael Ahern, a Microsoft product manager. "We're testing with every chat client out there and every news client on multiple platforms."
The company originally developed the Normandy servers as the underpinnings of the Microsoft Network, which is in the process of moving entirely to the Net. But the company liked its handiwork so much that it decided to expand its Net server offerings by turning Normandy into a suite of products.
Microsoft has not finalized packaging and pricing information for the Normandy servers. Although the company would not identify which Web sites are testing Normandy, CompuServe announced last June that it would move its online service to the Internet using the servers.