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Windows Server 2008 Is SP1... Huh?

Many companies wait until the first service pack of Microsoft operating systems are released before deploying them. With Windows Server 2008, the initial release is already Service Pack 1. You read that right.
Many companies wait until the first service pack of Microsoft operating systems are released before deploying them. With Windows Server 2008, the initial release is already Service Pack 1. You read that right.Microsoft's labeling Windows Server 2008's initial release (see my in-depth story from this week's issue), which is expected by the end of the month, as Service Pack 1. The thinking is that since Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 share the same Longhorn code base, they should stay on the same patching and service pack cycle, and since Windows Vista is at the SP1 stage, so, too, will be Windows Server 2008.

Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, on the other hand, saw diverging development cycles, and that required different patches and service packs. "The matrix of releases became a nightmare," Microsoft's director of Windows Server program management, Ian McDonald, wrote in a blog last week.

Good thinking, poor branding in my opinion. McDonald's blog clarifying the Windows Server version notes that, even within Microsoft, a "bunch of people" are asking why the new release will be Windows Server 2008 SP1. If Microsoft employees are confused, there's no doubt some of Microsoft's customers will be, too.

If Microsoft was so far behind in the release of Windows Server 2008 relative to that of Windows Vista, why not just wait until the actual SP1 to call Windows Server 2008 an SP1? Hyper-V virtualization is due out within six months, so why not just wait until then? That would still put Windows Server SP1 well ahead of Windows Vista SP2, and Microsoft could release SP2 simultaneously for both OSes. In the meantime, the company could still patch both operating systems on the same schedule.

With the sometimes poor reception Windows Vista has gotten within businesses, Microsoft can't afford to have another big marketing screw-up on its hands. Consider, for example, the fact that Gartner has had to recommend that companies not wait until Windows 7 is released for their next client operating system upgrade.

Service Pack 1 also indicates that many of the initial bugs have been wiped out. Microsoft hasn't even released Windows Server 2008, and even though Microsoft says Windows Server 2008 is the most-tested operating system yet, there are likely to be bugs just waiting to be found. "It's called [SP1] so you don't have to wait for SP1 for it to be right like people have before," McDonald wrote in his blog. We'll see if that's what users decide.