Windows Server 2008: Missing Pieces Threaten Pent-Up Demand - InformationWeek
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Windows Server 2008: Missing Pieces Threaten Pent-Up Demand

Our survey shows that more than half of IT departments have plans for Microsoft's new operating system, but delays in Hyper-V and SQL Server 2008 could slow its progress.

The game tables are idle and the hallways are quiet on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus. All heads are down as the company's developers race to meet their deadline for what's billed as Microsoft's biggest enterprise product launch ever. They're not even close to making it.

In Los Angeles on Feb. 27, Microsoft will formally introduce Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008. In many respects, they need no introduction. As the flagship products in Microsoft's enterprise line, they're used by millions of customers. Sales of Microsoft's servers and tools have grown more than 10% annually for the last 22 quarters, fueling an $11.2 billion business. Windows Server Enterprise Edition alone grew at 35% last quarter.

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But it's been five years since Microsoft released a new server operating system--Windows Server 2003--and three years since it upgraded the database that runs on top of it, SQL Server. So the hoopla isn't surprising, and, according to InformationWeek's just-completed survey, there's pent-up demand. But Microsoft--as it too often does--has fallen behind on two of the key pieces. SQL Server 2008's delivery date has been pushed back to the third quarter, and the much-anticipated Hyper-V virtual machine hypervisor is running as much as six months behind Windows Server 2008, meaning Hyper-V probably won't ship until the third quarter, either.

In other words, it will still be months before IT departments can push ahead with Windows Server virtualization or SQL Server upgrades, and it's impossible to know the quality of those releases in the meantime. Microsoft's vision for data center automation--a work-in-progress for the past five years that it now calls "Dynamic IT"--remains unfinished business. We'll get back to that, but first the basics:

  • Windows Server 2008 was released to manufacturing earlier this month and will be generally available March 1. In addition to Hyper-V, major improvements include Server Core for task-specific deployment, Server Manager for simplified management, and a new version of Microsoft's Web server, Internet Information Services 7.0.
  • SQL Server 2008's key advances include no-fuss data encryption and a resource governor for tuning performance.
  • Visual Studio 2008 shipped in January. Its distinguishing features are the ability to develop applications for multiple versions of the .Net Framework and a focus on Web development.
  • As they become available, Microsoft's new products presumably will create a more automated data center. Microsoft's ultimate goal is to create a software environment where applications are no longer tethered to physical hardware and where resource provisioning is based on business needs and conditions. "Historically, people purchased an application to run on a specific version of an operating system and on specific hardware," says Bill Laing, general manager for Windows Server development. "People want to break those links. They want deployment to be a logical application."

    There's clear interest in Microsoft's new line. According to a just-completed InformationWeek Research survey of 1,082 business technology professionals, 56% plan to begin adopting Windows Server 2008 within two years of its release, motivated foremost by Internet Information Services 7.0. Almost half (45%) plan to begin installing SQL Server 2008 in that same time frame, with data encryption the most sought-after feature. The uptake of Visual Studio 2008 tracks differently, as it's a toolset put to use by developers. Thirty-four percent plan to use VS 2008 within two years, with an overwhelming majority of those intending to use it for Web app development.

    Impact Assessment: Windows Enterprise Products

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