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Monad not expected in Longhorn release

Microsoft's new command-line shell and scripting language isn't expected to be ready until Longhorn's R2, but will be included in the next version of Exchange.

Some called the arrival of Microsoft's command-line shell and scripting language, code-named Monad, the death of DOS after it was

I feel the language is much more familiar.

Jason Nadal, .NET developer, Innovative Health Solutions

unveiled at the Professional Developers Conference in 2003. Now, the software giant is set to release its first operating system with Monad capabilities.

The software giant had originally planned to make next year's Longhorn release the first version of its operating system with Monad capabilities, but the company said it is no longer making that commitment.

"One of the things that Windows administrators have long complained about is that Windows was not designed from the beginning to be text-driven," said analyst Peter Pawlak, of Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Wash. "If you worked in the DOS world, everything was command-prompt based. There was a fairly crude Windows command shell interpreter and you could write scripts to do simple things like delete files, but it ran out of horsepower very quickly."

Microsoft's Monad man

Developed by Jeffrey Snover, a software architect at Microsoft, Monad combines features of Unix

Jeffrey Snover, Microsoft software architect

shells and object-oriented programming, and it respects the object structure of both the Windows operating system and its applications, said Pawlak. The language uses "commandlets" -- small components in the command-line shell -- and can assign the output of a command to a variable.

"I feel the language is much more familiar," said .NET developer Jason Nadal, of Innovative Health Solutions LLC, in Red Bank, N.J. "In presentations given by Jeffrey Snover, he mentioned how they're also providing systems administrators with a stepping-stone of sorts to more development in .NET and Visual Studio. For the most part, I will use the commandlet features of Monad to create server-side hooks to information I'd like to get at. There's a wealth of things that can be done this way."

Laura Hunter, a Microsoft most valuable professional (MVP) and Windows networking senior IT specialist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been using Monad in its beta form.

"So far, I'm absolutely loving it," she said. "One of the major complaints of enterprise-level Windows admins has long been, 'For the love of all that is holy, will you please let me get away from the GUI?' -- especially for routine, large-scale and/or repetitive tasks."

Next Exchange to feature Monad

The next release of Microsoft's Exchange Server messaging platform -- code-named E12 -- will be the first application planned to support Monad, Pawlak said. E12 is expected to be released in 2006, about the same time as Office 12 -- the next version of the Office productivity suite.

Pawlak said he expects Monad will present a somewhat challenging learning curve for administrators. "This will be much easier [than learning Perl or Java Script]," Pawlak said. "However, it's non-trivial at the same time. It will take some training and education on the part of the administrator."

Hunter agreed. "The learning curve on Monad will be a bit steeper than VBScript, especially for someone new to command-line administration," she said. "But I think it'll be more than worth the time invested to learn it when it's released to the general public."

Security is a concern

Nadal said Monad offers administrators an entire communications layer, although he is concerned about the security ramifications.

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"Security would be left up to the developer to implement," he said. "In theory, Indigo or WS-Security could be used to transfer whatever data over the Net from machine to machine. However, hobbyists may open themselves up to potential attacks by exposing too many management features fairly easily without applying any security lockdowns."

Nadal said it's how people use Monad -- not Monad itself -- that poses a security risk. "It's the exposure of creating scripts to automate remote server tasks that could be the most rewarding for Web admins -- but also the most reliant on safe server practices."

Still the benefits outweigh the risks, he said.

"As far as the actual scripting goes, I can have services that are much simpler in design," Nadal said. "I would no longer worry about how to get access to certain things like performance counters, server information, etc. They would just need to call the MSH [Microsoft Shell] script that's appropriate for the task at hand."

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