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Fast forward: changes to Windows Media Services

Apr 21, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Windows Server 2003 promises faster streaming

This is the final installment in our overview of the major changes expected in Windows Server 2003, which will begin Thursday. This final look is at an area I hesitate to bring up since most network managers would rather see it disappear than be improved: Windows Media Services.

Windows Media Services includes streaming video, music and other so-called time wasters. But it also includes money savers such as online meetings, IP phones and other “business friendly” services.

The major improvement is what Microsoft calls “Fast Streaming.” This is most noticeable when you first start the Windows Media Player to view streamed content – virtually no start-up time waiting for the content to be buffered. This “Fast Start” is only the beginning, though, as there’s also “Fast Cache” so that the content can continue to be delivered at the highest rate the client can support. This should remove those annoying delays while clients again fill up their buffer (it’s scary to watch Steve Ballmer suddenly freeze in the middle of a speech, or doing the famous “chicken dance” while waiting for the content to fill the buffer!).

Nevertheless, Microsoft knows there will still be network problems so it has also installed technologies called “Fast Recovery” and “Fast Reconnect.” These technologies include redundant information to ensure instant error correction should network problems interfere with or break the content stream. It’s neat stuff, especially if you’re a content provider.

More important to most of you, though, are dramatic improvements in the security and administration of streaming content and its use. Even Management Console snap-ins for administration are included. Admins worried about legal problems from users downloading and using pirated copyrighted works will be pleased to know that all of Microsoft’s work on Digital Rights Management is included in this release of Media Services so that you can monitor (and block) illegal activity.

Productive activity, though, is another matter. Network managers are frequently tasked with monitoring users’ time and reporting on what they are doing as poorly trained managers attempt to institute “Big Brother” practices as a way to increase productivity. Here’s an area you need to be proactive about. While you should do all you can to prevent illegal activity, even unethical activity, it’s a losing proposition to try to monitor all time-wasting activity. Point the “Big Brother” proponents towards courses in people management rather than pointing out how you can monitor all keyboard input. You’ll sleep better and the company will benefit.

There’s more on Windows Media Services in a white paper at that you should read, if only to prepare you for what’s to come.

Next issue, I’ll wrap up the changes and point you towards some more resources before Thursday’s launch of Microsoft’s best operating system ever.