March 10, 1997 10:00 AM ET

D-Day for 'Normandy'
Microsoft Commercial Internet System due this week; company enlists third-party add-on application support

By PC Week Staff

  Microsoft Corp. is rounding out its software lineup to facilitate doing business online, but its plans are highly dependent on good relations with its partners.

The MCIS (Microsoft Commercial Internet System), being launched at Spring Internet World in Los Angeles this week, will get support from vendors of add-on software, such as billing packages.

At the same time, Microsoft will bolster its NetMeeting conferencing software through a renewed commitment with Cisco Systems Inc. and Intel Corp. to enable multimedia over the Internet.

Last week, Microsoft demonstrated technology to build connections between distributed Windows NT systems and legacy systems such as mainframes.

Overall, as Microsoft moves into the enterprise, it is enlisting help to spread beyond the desktop into the new, open world of the distributed enterprise.

MCIS, code-named Normandy, consists of a set of servers for building an Internet system, providing replication, user location, mail and news, search, chat, personalization, and membership control services.

Pieces of Normandy

Features due in Microsoft's Web service software:

CHAT. IRC support; conferencing; data and text messages; ability to pass shortcuts and URLs

REPLICATION. Automatically replicates file-based content; transmits through firewalls

WHITE PAGES LOCATOR. Maintains dynamic database of online users and their IP addresses

MCIS MAIL. SMTP and POP3 support with secure user authentication; transaction logs; allows moderated postings

MEMBERSHIP. Authenticates users; allows controlled access; generates billing events for external processing

PERSONALIZATION. Customized content; user tracking; user voting; direct mail

But the package doesn't cover everything. The membership server, for example, requires an external billing application. Therefore, Microsoft is turning to Cabletron Systems Inc. and NetIQ Corp. for management software and to LHS Communications Inc. and Claremont Technology Group for compatible billing software.

"People may not want to be totally Microsoft," said Mark Edwards, chief technology officer for Netropolis Communications Corp., in Houston. "But we're starved for a more total solution, particularly in this area, where right now you have to buy servers from scattered parties."

One of the keys to making MCIS a robust system is to enhance its delivery of multimedia. This will be the purpose of the joint announcement from Microsoft, Cisco and Intel, sources said. While short on specific product news, the announcement will firm up the three companies' commitment to deliver better multimedia support at all stages and to integrate their efforts.

The next version of Microsoft's NetMeeting, which will use the MCIS Chat servers, will be optimized to support the MMX architecture. A later version will include Cisco's RSVP quality-of-service protocol, Microsoft officials said.

Version 2 of NetMeeting is currently in final beta and is expected to ship next quarter. The beta version released by Microsoft last week includes support for application sharing.

Enabling business communication over the Internet, however, doesn't eliminate the need for links with legacy systems. To address this issue, Microsoft last week at Object World in Boston demonstrated a product, code-named Cedar, that extends Microsoft's Transaction Server to IBM MVS hosts running Customer Information Control System and IMS/TM.

Reported by Norvin Leach, Mark Moore, Michael Moeller, Maria Seminerio and Paula Musich

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