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9/24/2009
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Are Windows 7's R2 Server Ties A Blessing Or Curse?

Several key desktop features only work if paired with the upgraded server operating system.

Windows 7 is getting most of the fanfare, but Windows Server 2008 R2 also hit the enterprise last month. Since many of Win 7's top features require running R2, you'll need to factor the new server operating system into your desktop plan. That could create problems for IT teams.


[Virtual Event: Business Case For Windows 7 -- Join Microsoft's top Windows executives and InformationWeek's editors for a live, interactive Webcast that will dive into how enterprises large and small are evaluating the benefits -- and weighing the challenges -- of migrating to the new platform. Find out more and register.]

In our recent InformationWeek Analytics Windows 7 survey, two-thirds of the 669 respondents with Win 7 deployment plans cite the operating system's new features as the primary driver or a contributing factor to migrating. Yet key Win 7 features, including DirectAccess, BranchCache, improved search, power management, and better offline folder access, depend on R2 server functionality. That was by design, as Microsoft consolidated the two core development teams, desktop and server, as one application group.

"We really got some engineering efficiencies from joint development," says Ward Ralston, Microsoft's group product manager for Windows Server. "We were able to take some fairly complex design enhancements and focus them around the single release schedule."

However, while joint development allows for a tighter feature set, the idea breaks apart once you leave the lab. The term "better together" may work well for marketing, but in the real world, companies deploy server and desktop operating systems on different schedules and with different priorities. Requiring IT to fully convert its network in order to take advantage of functionality is counterintuitive.

Consider BranchCache. It's a great feature that dramatically improves network file access throughout the entire network, not just in remote offices. Problem is, it works only with R2 and Win 7 clients, with no functionality at all for XP or Vista. The result is a chicken-and-egg situation: A company's server team is likely to delay a major upgrade until it benefits the majority of end users. Meanwhile, desktop groups will see not having access to these features as one more reason to put off Win 7 deployment. The answer for CIOs looking to break the logjam may be to tempt server teams with server-centric features, such as the Active Directory recycle bin. Once R2 is in use, the Windows 7 client is markedly more attractive.

Michael Healey is president of Yeoman Technologies. This is an excerpt from an upcoming InformationWeek Analytics Report. See more of our original research at analytics.informationweek.com


Virtual Event: Business Case For Windows 7 -- Join Microsoft's top Windows executives and InformationWeek's editors for a live, interactive Webcast that will dive into how enterprises large and small are evaluating the benefits -- and weighing the challenges -- of migrating to the new platform. Find out more and register.

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