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With each new release of Microsoft's server operating system, pundits are moved to declare that this one is the first Windows truly suited to the enterprise. And it is especially tempting to hang that tag on Windows Server 2003.
Windows crossed the enterprise line back in the mid-1990s with the release of Windows NT Option Pack 4, when Microsoft started bundling business essentials such as Web, object, transaction, and messaging services into the foundation OS. Windows made the leap from file/print server to robust application platform. Developers went nuts over Visual Studio, especially Visual Basic and Active Server Pages, assuring Windows' ascent into the world of business server computing.
No software product spends as much time in development as an operating system. The market hasn't seen a fresh edition of Windows Server in nearly four years, and the enterprise market has changed substantially in terms of customer expectations, economic viability, and competitors' strategies. The present reality is not what Microsoft had in mind when it put its next-generation server platform on the drawing board.
Even so, the technology Microsoft pulled together for Windows Server 2003 is its best effort by far, an uncannily good fit for the myriad challenges modern IT organizations face. It is, in the best sense, a total solution in a box.
In the lab, installed on an Intel dual Xeon reference platform and on a Newisys dual Opteron machine, the new Windows server clearly outclassed Windows 2000. At the core level, hyperthreading on the Xeon and NUMA (nonuniform memory access) on Opteron boost baseline performance noticeably and smooth task-switching.