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So You Want To Learn About Windows DNA, Huh?

Microsoft Distributed interNetworking Architecture (DNA) is HUGE!! It is the Microsoft strategy of strategies. Windows DNA provides a conceptual framework, plus tools, methods, and systems for leveraging Microsoft and other product technologies in a rich interactive multimedia distributed computing environment. Windows DNA, an open systems technology, integrates nicely with other third-party DNA systems. Microsoft's main focus is on products and fully 98% of Microsoft's cash flows come from that.

Where Does That Leave Us?

With a strong need for fresh, innovative DNA applications and services and the ability to provide them! Windows DNA involves new ways to approach application development. Developers need to learn and apply new technologies to be able to leverage the full power and scope of Windows DNA. Getting on top and staying on top of these technologies requires a significant commitment, but it's worth it. Done right, mastery of Windows DNA and its associated technologies can help an organization rewrite the rules for how world-class operations should be conducted in an industry segment. Examples of how an organization can benefit are:
  • Reduced Labor
  • Decreased Resources
  • Shortened Cycle Times
  • Improved Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I)

Is This Just The Latest New Fad?

No! It's definitely cutting edge, but it's also here to stay for a while. Many of Windows DNA core technologies have been around for years. Microsoft launched Viper 1.0 (renamed as Microsoft Transaction Server) in December 1996. Viper was a key component of the ActiveX Server Framework, a subset of ActiveX Technologies announced by Microsoft in March 1996. ActiveX was immediately supported by 100 third-party vendors. Prior to this, Microsoft had been working on technologies such as Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) and the Component Object Model (COM). Windows DNA focuses on seven key technology groups:
  • The Windows 200x/9x/CE operating system group
  • COM/COM+/COM-TI/Network OLE (Renamed as DCOM)
  • Universal Data Access (UDA)
  • Other products in the Microsoft BackOffice suite
  • Other Microsoft product technologies
  • Other DNA-aware third-party technologies
  • ARPA's Internet
By synergistically marrying these seven groups into a cooperating whole, the impact is revolutionary.

What Is The Bottom Line Here?

The key item of interest to business and technology leaders is that Windows DNA embraces a diverse array of hardware and software technologies both inside and outside the Microsoft focus. Adopting Windows DNA does not lock you into a Microsoft-only solution, although there is nothing wrong with that and there are firms that take that approach and do extremely well. In order for it to be Windows DNA though, Microsoft technology has some role in the solution. The solution also does not need to be interactive, multimedia, or distributed, nor does it need to include an Internet component. The point is that it can. The solution does not have to include Windows NT, but it may. It could be a single-user app running under Windows CE on a 3Com Palm Pilot. It could also be a massive eCommerce or eCRM solution interconnected with other supply chain management software, in-house plant production systems, a data warehouse with data marts, OLAP servers, and other distributed systems running CORBA and Enterprise Java Beans. The flexibility and scope of Windows DNA gives developers incredible firepower. They can build high performance applications using the richness of the Windows Application Programming Interface, or they can move to the other end of the spectrum and create generic flexible systems that accomodate technological diversity. One chief benefit of Windows DNA is that it can scale easily to support more users easily just by adding more powerful processing systems, by replicating and deploying application components, and by performance tuning to eliminate bottlenecks.

So, How Can Our Developers Create Business Value, Huh?

By using DNA-enabled technologies to create the DNA infrastructure. There are numerous options to choose from. Currently, a key component for enterprise is Windows NT Server 4.0, and soon-to-be Windows NT Server 5.0. NT 5.0 is now known as Windows 2000 Professional (aka NT 5.0 Workstation), Windows 2000 Server (aka NT 5.0 Server), and Windows 2000 Advanced Server (aka NT 5.0 Advanced Server). These servers include the ActiveX Server Framework to support a distributed DNA infrastructure on the Windows side. Also on the Windows side, the core development toolset is Visual Studio 6.0 and the soon-to-be-released Visual Studio 7.0. Other Microsoft products such as SQL Server 7.0, Microsoft Office 97/2000 and Windows 9x/CE come with DNA-aware development environments of their own.

In the next several months, Microsoft will be releasing the Windows DNA 2000 family of products. This family includes the Windows 2000 family and Visual Studio as discussed above, AppCenter Server, Commerce Server, Babylon (SNA Server 5.0), Shiloh (Sql Server 8.0), and BizTalk Server. But keep in mind that Windows DNA permeates every product that Microsoft has.

Beyond pure Windows DNA, there are toolsets such as DCOM for various flavors of UNIX, COM TI for IBM mainframe via SNA Server, and DCOM Connector for SAP/R3. The Denali scripting engine (renamed as Active Server Pages) within Microsoft Internet Information Server supports web code development in a variety of languages such as Visual Basic Scripting Edition, JavaScript, Perl, and REXX. Generally speaking, C++, Visual BASIC, Visual Interdev, Visual J++, Dynamic HTML, VBScript, JavaScript, Active Server Pages, XML/XSL, and Visual FoxPro are the chief development languages. Ideally, you have an in-house skilled workforce that has developed a command of these and other DNA toolsets over a period of years. It really helps to have a strong command of all these technologies and more, but, any developer with the right background and skills can develop a simple DNA application quickly.

How To Get This Working Quickly?

Ah, a fantastic question!! One way to achieve this is through Rapid Application Development (RAD). As technology life cycles become shorter and increasing global competition heats up, RAD techniques can speed up development. The fastest route to an n-tiered distributed enterprise system that is optionally Internet and Intranet aware is to use:
  • Visual BASIC
  • Windows 9x/CE
  • Internet Explorer
  • Universal Data Access
  • A Communications Network
  • Microsoft Transaction Server
  • Windows 2000 Server and Professional
  • Microsoft Internet Information Server
  • SQL Server or Access 9x/2000 or other data store
The fastest route to a Windows-only, non-enterprise, non-Internet/Intranet system is to use:
  • Windows NT/9x/CE
  • Microsoft Office 2000 (optional)
  • Active Data Objects or Data Access Objects (optional)
  • Visual BASIC or Visual BASIC for Applications (VBA)
These aren't the only fast routes or even the best routes. A lot depends on specific project requirements, total cost of ownership, security, the skill sets of developers, and numerous other factors. It boils down to a tradeoff among schedule, resources, and features. To speed up the schedule, it takes more resources or fewer features to implement, or both.

Is DNA a Good Investment?

Yes, it's likely. You should not use payback or Internal Rate of Return (IRR) techniques to make the determination. It is better to use Net Present Value (NPV) of cash flows and contingent claims analysis and real options. If through financial analysis it can be shown that a DNA project has a high positive net present value with good probability as well as exceeds the expected NPV of other potential investment projects, that is a green light. You can also use Microsoft as a proxy. Microsoft is not financially careless. They are betting extremely big bucks on Windows DNA and everything related to it like ActiveX and the Digital Nervous System! In the next year, Microsoft will spend $3.5 billion on Research and Development. It has spent billions in the past and Windows DNA, Cedar, Falcon, Denali, and Viper have resulted from that R&D.

We Have The Justification And The Resources, Anything Else Needed?

Yes, for an enterprise solution, the information technology infrastructure of the enterprise should be aligned and tuned. The Microsoft Solutions Framework defines infrastructure as the total set of resources necessary to support the enterprise computing environment. These resources consist of technologies, standards, operational processes, policies, procedures, IT services, developer skill sets, and the management team. If these resources are not finely focused and working together as a syncronized whole, productivity will be constrained. For some more ideas, check out the white paper about Supercharging Your Windows DNA Project.

Where To From Here?

There is a lot more to learn! Try the links below. In particular, check out Bill Gates' View or the Windows DNA home page to get the scoop from the horse's mouth, so to speak! This site is starting with the basics now and will expand in the days and weeks ahead. The goal is to give you information that is applicable, readable, concise, and occasionally entertaining. Please submit your DNA question and it may appear as a topic of a draft paper in the future. If we can participate in your DNA project, please let us know.

Explore Windows DNA

Bill Gates' View
Interesting News Bits
DNA-Related Literature
Microsoft Windows DNA Home Page
Links To Key Microsoft DNA-Based Technologies
Links To Vendors Who Are Embracing DNA In Their Products

Barry Cox and Associates Home PageE-MailGoto Top Updated September 16, 1999--We update often so please check back for new information.

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