The server software has been delayed several times since late October as the company flushed out its .Net plans and addressed security woes. Most recently, it slipped a week from its anticipated March 19 release to manufacturing date.
Microsoft claims it invested $200 million and 5,000 programmers in the development of Windows Server 2003.
Also on Friday, Microsoft launched 64-bit SQL Server Enterprise Edition 2000 and Windows XP 64-bit Edition Version 2003, both upgraded for Intel's Itanium 2 processor. Two versions of the Windows Server 2003 line--the Enterprise and Datacenter editions--support Intel's Itanium 2 64-bit processor.
Given the turmoil of today's economic climate, Microsoft executives opted to focus on new server features aimed at reducing TCO and increasing IT operational efficiencies for resource-strained customers.
Windows Server 2003 offers major improvements over the NT 4.0 server, including a 20% increase in security, a 40% increase in stability, a 30% improvement in server consolidation and 100 times the scalability, said Bill Veghte, corporate VP of Microsoft's Windows Server Division. The upgraded server also offers twice the performance of Windows Server 2000, he said.
Microsoft claims it involved 50 corporate customers in its joint development program and ironed out kinks in the software with more than 5,000 customers that had access to preview copies, but sources said customers likely will face some migration issues when moving to Windows Server 2003 from NT 4.0.
Partners say they've been pushing customers to make that move for some time now, and that the availability of the next set of .Net server applications--including Exchange 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server 2003--should drive that shift.
"Ideally, we want to be ready to hit the ground running at launch. Titanium will also be a big part of any potential deployment of Windows 2003, and since we have such a heavy focus on small business, Small Business Server 2003 is also a big deal for us," said Michael Cocanower, president of ITSynergy, a Microsoft Certified Partner in Phoenix. "We're already working with certain customers to get them into early adopter programs on SBS 2003. That release is, of course, a bit further off."
Small Business Server 2003 is expected to ship in October.
Veghte also touted the release on April 24 of Visual Studio.Net 2003 and the server's .Net and Web service capabilities, which will allow customers to develop a range of new .Net applications and connect wireless devices to the server.
While Microsoft has shifted its server marketing focus over the past several months--from the whiz-bang .Net features to the enhanced IT efficiencies--some partners expect to cash in on the product's new application and Web service development capabilities.
"The .Net a la Windows 2003 Server ushers in a completely new platform relative to the development of Web applications," said Bob LaGarde, founder and CEO of Olathe, Kan.-based LaGarde StoreFront E-Business Solutions. "Windows Server 2003 is certainly a new product in our view."
While Microsoft declined to specify which equipment makers would ship 32-bit PCs and servers and Itanium 2 desktops and servers, company executives said that the typical vendors--Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Unisys--would be ready with new machines this spring.
On April 7, Unisys expects to debut a higher-end version of its ES 7000 Intel server for Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, code-named Dylan.
This article appears courtesy of CRN, the newspaper for builders of technology solutions.