Despite the relatively simplistic load-balancing features, Application Center 2000 has numerous positive features. Content synchronization is particularly strong and should be transparent to the typical Web developer who only has to make a change to content on the cluster controller. The abilities to gracefully bring a server offline by draining connections and deploy an application through a rolling upgrade are particularly welcome. Lastly, a powerful and positive feature of Application Center 2000 is the multitude of monitoring facilities. It was easy to monitor the health and performance of all the servers in the cluster. As we ran tests to ensure the cluster could handle bursting loads and survive servers being added and removed from the cluster, we could easily monitor the utilization of the various servers. Server health data were stored in Microsoft SQL Server, and a variety of reporting and analysis options are possible.
The estimated price of Application Center 2000 ($2,999 per CPU) is troubling if you consider other Web scalability solutions. Even some hardware-based solutions aren't much more than this when you start adding servers.
Application Center 2000 is Microsoft-oriented -- it runs only on Windows 2000 servers with IIS and favors Microsoft's Web technologies such as Active Server Pages. This may be considered a strength of the product, but sites with more heterogeneous hardware and software setups should not bother looking at Application Center 2000, and instead should concentrate on a hardware-based product.
While the administration, monitoring and content deployment features of Microsoft Application Center 2000 are admirable and show its true potential, its simplistic load-balancing options and rough edges make it difficult to recommend, particularly to those new to building Web clusters. If these issues can be smoothed out, Application Center 2000 no doubt will become a good solution for Windows Web site administrators facing increasing reliability and traffic demands.