Often, as a solution provider, you're asked to sell a particular platform, like Windows Server, as much as you need to sell any specific product. Despite its critics, there are several applications and environments in which the Windows Server platform surpasses other platforms in value, applicability, and performance. What mission critical applications is Windows Server being used for? In what cases is it ideal to use Windows Server for mission-critical applications? Let's take a look at four common scenarios.
Terminal Services. The only genuine way to host Microsoft Windows-based applications for multiple users is to deploy and use terminal services. Solution providers can choose between the plain-vanilla version that is bundled with Windows Server, or choose enhanced terminal services using third party products such as Citrix MetaFrame. While there are alternative solutions involving Linux and other open-source software, and there are applications that aren't manufactured by Microsoft that can be hosted on other platforms, you're locked into Windows Server if you want to run Microsoft applications through port 3389.
High-performance ASP.NET and other .NET technologies for web presence. While ASP.NET isn't the only dynamic language available for use on the Web, it's a very popular one. Many corporate web sites run on Internet Information Services (IIS), and many store or e-commerce applications run in an ASP.NET environment which is best served by Windows Server and IIS. One bonus: with IIS 7, which is coming bundled with Windows Server 2008 early next year, you'll be able to run PHP -- the other popular dynamic Web language -- as fast on IIS as on Apache, due to some architectural changes within IIS. One platform, many options. IIS 7, frankly, is a standard setter for Web server applications.
Hosting Office Web solutions. A lot of companies are deploying Windows SharePoint Services or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, which allows for teams to come together and collaborate, share documents and ideas, and generally keep tabs on what others are doing. You cannot host SharePoint on platforms other than Windows Server. Given the fairly significant established environment surrounding custom solution development for SharePoint (do a search on Google to see a variety of products that you can find for the SharePoint platform), those looking for specific solutions whose foundation is in WSS or MOSS need to deploy Windows Server first.
Complex calculations and laboratory research environments. The hardened and performance-tuned kernel in Windows Computer Cluster Server 2003 -- a special version of Windows Server 2003 -- is especially suited for supercomputing and high-performance computing environments. For financial services firms, science and research outfits, and manufacturers looking to improve analysis and job performance, WCCS is a good solution. One should note, though, that Linux and other platforms offer a pretty good story in this space, too.
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