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Chapter 1: Cisco and Windows ConveregeBoth Cisco Systems and the Microsoft Corporation are much in the public eye of late. Among other developments, Microsoft has announced the next generation of Windows, called Windows 2000, and Cisco is experiencing rapid growth through acquisition. Both companies have been pioneers of their respective industries and consistently stand above their competition. Yet there is another set of events that arguably will have a much greater impact on users and businesses than will recent product releases and corporate purchases.
A significant relationship has been developing between Cisco and Microsoft for the past several years. They have jointly agreed to undertake the challenge of making Cisco's products and Internetworking Operating System (IOS) run more cooperatively with Microsoft's new directory service, Active Directory (AD). Concurrently, Microsoft will cooperate with Cisco to make Windows 2000 more aware of Cisco network devices and of the general conditions that exist on an organization's network.
Every user who is on a network will feel the impact of these advancements. Features will be added to applications and Windows itself that would not be possible without this network OS/ desktop OS alliance. Third-party applications will be redesigned to use information gathered from the network devices, and to subsequently interact directly with these devices to change service. A new breed of "intelligent" applications will be built upon the interaction between the network itself and the Windows system. Already, new standards such as Directory-Enabled Networking (DEN) have benefited from the Cisco/Microsoft association. Great things willundoubtedly come of this relationshipbut to make the most of them, you'll need to understand how Cisco IOS and Windows 2000 will interact.
This book covers the areas where Cisco and Windows overlap. Here in this first chapter, we'll look at the current state of these areas of overlap, and where they will be in the coming years. We'll introduce Windows 2000 and the Active Directory, and then move on to DEN concepts and Cisco networking fundamentals.
Why CISCO And Windows?
In Las Vegas, May 1997, Microsoft made an announcement. The press release was titled "Microsoft and Cisco Collaborate to Establish Directory Services Standard." The opening paragraph sums it up best:
Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. today announced a letter of intent in which Cisco will license Active Directory from Microsoft for use in managing network infrastructure and to provide richer network services. As part of this agreement, Cisco and Microsoft will jointly develop extensions to Active Directory to integrate advanced management of network elements and services. Products developed as a result of this agreement will make it possible for network managers to unify their network infrastructures and to accelerate the development of richer network services via Cisco IOS software. It will also allow service providers to simplify service delivery and provide new sets of services for their customers.
Merging the network with the desktop operating system is a natural direction to take as user communities get more connected. Increasingly, the real benefit of using computers is sharing information, reaching well beyond local PCs to information stores on corporate networks and on the Internet. Technologies that facilitate this direction will be well received but will need the support of the network and the desktop OS-enter Cisco and Microsoft.
Cisco is the world's most popular networking hardware vendor, owning approximately 80% of the market share on the Internet. Cisco systems may not have the fastest throughput of the day or the latest gigabit technology, but they are rock-solid in terms of functionality. Big businesses and mission-critical environments (such as the Internet) use Cisco gear because it is reliable, consistent, and supported by a skilled pool of individuals who know how to configure and maintain it. With its steady growth and frequent acquisitions, Cisco is gaining a stronger foothold and increasing its long-term viability. Cisco is being built to last-and basing a technology on Cisco IOS is a pretty good bet.
For desktop operating systems, Microsoft has been the leading supplier since its inception. It comes as no surprise that they were recently declared a monopoly by the U.S. Department of Justice. Though flawed, Windows technology is ubiquitous; and it is improving (especially by dropping the 9x versions). There is no question of its pervasive presence and momentum. Windows, too, will be around for some time. A pairing of Windows and Cisco is clearly logical. The result will be not only great financial reward for the two companies, but for many smaller ones as well, if they are nimble enough to take advantage of related opportunities. Everyone involved, from the single Internet day trader to the enterprise of thousands, will benefit.
Features arising from the Cisco/Windows relationship promise to ease administration, increase security, and provide unprecedented access to information. In this light, the value of a standards-based infrastructure becomes paramount.
Cisco Becomes Windows Aware
In addition to integrating its devices and IOS into Windows 2000, Cisco has already taken steps to become more Windows friendly. In the past, nearly all Cisco applications were written to run on UNIX systems exclusively. Lately, the trend has been to port these applications (such as CiscoSecure, NetSonar, and so on) to Windows NT. Cisco has even started writing (or acquiring) applications that run primarily on Windows NT (such as CiscoWorks2000). Cisco often releases versions for UNIX systems, as well, supporting the many network administrators who are loyal to UNIX reliability.
Cisco is wise to not alienate other vendors. They often release a product for Windows NT and coincidentally create the application as a Web-based tool, so that users of other systems can still administer the application from any system that can run a browser. They are working toward similar goals of interoperability with Novell, too, and will likely form business relationships with other vendors.
With the introduction of Windows 2000, Windows awareness extends far beyond the creation of 32-bit Windows applications. Windows 2000 brings robust directory services to a huge base of users and opens up a whole new category of opportunity for Cisco. Active Directory will be available to user workstations and e-mail servers, and to Cisco network devices such as routers, switches, and firewalls. These devices will be able to read and write information to and from the directory. The number of potential applications for this capability are enormous.
Windows Understands the Network
just as Cisco has worked to make its applications Windows compatible, Microsoft must hold up its end of the deal and make some room in Active Directory for Cisco. This is only the first step in what Microsoft will have to do to make the Windows OS network aware. Since the Cisco routers, switches, and other devices will need to talk to the AD, Microsoft must build the intelligence of the AD so it can understand what the devices are telling it. New entries in the AD will be necessary, and a design created to use that information to provide better service and greater features to users. In addition, Microsoft must provide an environment that is scalable, secure, and will communicate with non-Microsoft enabled devices using open standards. Should Microsoft fail to make these accommodations, they are likely to find limited adoption (of network devices communicating with AD). Organizational users are no longer willing to accept a non-scalable OS, poor security, and applications that only work with their own components. If these needs are not met, users may look elsewhere for their network solutions.
The remaining portion of this chapter examines Microsoft's actions of late to ensure that their OS is chosen in the future.
Windows 2000: Which One?
In retrospect, the original name of Windows 2000-Windows NT 5.0-was probably inappropriate given the extensive features included in this release. The jump from NT 4.0 to 5.0 is far greater than for any previous upgrade. This is without a doubt Microsoft's biggest project to date; indeed, much of the NT code is completely rewritten. So much work has been done across the entire OS that it will take quite some time for most users to realize the full potential of the release. In this book, we'll focus on the new features as they relate to the network in general and to Cisco products in particular. Note that all the Cisco applications discussed in this book will run on Windows NT 4.0 as well. Not until we begin to manipulate the Active Directory directly from Cisco hardware and software will we see some of the more "futuristic" elements of the Microsoft/Cisco initiative.
Microsoft announced on October 27, 1998, that its next version of Windows NT (called NT 5.0) would be named Windows 2000. The renaming of NT is an obvious marketing move-since Windows 9x will be retired after Windows 98, Microsoft cannot abandon these users and expect them to move to NT. Many users associate NT with high-end, complicated, expensive workstations that have no business on their desk or in their homes...