Windows Server: What’s Next?

Windows Server: What’s Next?

Mary Jo Foley

On April 24, Windows Server 2003 turned 1 year old. Microsoft officials say the product has sold like hotcakes. And last week’s third-quarter financials, driven by strong Windows Server licensing sales, underscored that message.

Microsoft won’t release specifics as to how many Windows Server 2003 licenses it has sold since the product launched, other than to say that Windows Server 2003 now constitutes 75 percent of its Windows server sales mix.

But Al Gillen, system software research director at IDC, said Server 2003 comprised 45 percent of the Windows licenses sold worldwide in the past year. (Windows Server 2000 and a few NT 4.0 licenses constituted the bulk of the rest of the Windows server shipments during the past year.)

“Windows Server [2003] continues to defy the laws of gravity,” Gillen said. “The operating system saw good uptake, and why not? It’s a second-generation product that is better, faster and more reliable.”

So, what’s Redmond got up its sleeve to keep the Windows Server momentum going?

Microsoft isn’t yet ready to talk about that, company officials said. But other sources are—including beta testers, analysts and Windows customers.

The next major deliverable item from the Windows Server team will be the Microsoft Virtual Server (MVS), which is due out in the second half of this year. Microsoft will tout MVS, which is based on technology that Microsoft acquired when it purchased Connectix last year, in part as a tool to aid users interested in migrating their NT 4.0 applications to Windows Server 2003.

MVS, officially named “Microsoft Virtual Server 2005,” went to private beta testers in February of this year.

Also due out by the end of this year is Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Currently in beta test, SP1 includes fixes plus a number of new features.

For one, Service Pack 1 will include a number of the Service Pack 2 enhancements that Microsoft plans to deliver as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2, including Remote Procedure Call (RPC), Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) and firewall enhancements. It also will include new network-quarantine and inspected-environment security capabilities, Microsoft officials have said.

And Microsoft is expected to make a number of its 64-bit Windows Server ports available simultaneously with SP1. These include Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition for Intel’s 64-bit Extended and Itanium processors and Windows Server 2003 Extended Edition for AMD 64-bit Extended processors.

In early May, Microsoft plans to kick off a 64-bit evangelism road show, called the Route 64 Windows Technology Tour. The series of one-day seminars are aimed at developers writing applications to take advantage of 64-bit Windows horsepower on both the desktop and server. On the agenda are overviews of Microsoft’s new 64-bit flavors of XP, Windows Server 2003, the .Net Framework and SQL Server “Yukon.”

(“Windows Server: What’s Next?” Page 2)

Next up for the Windows server team will be a renewed focus on migration. On December 31, Microsoft will move its flagship NT 4.0 operating system into the “end-of-life” category. After this date, Microsoft will cease offering even the most rudimentary support for NT 4.0. It will halt pay-per-incident and premier support, even for security hotfixes. (Some Microsoft partners will continue to offer this support, however.)

Microsoft officials said 40 percent of the company’s NT 4.0 customers migrated over the past year to either Windows Server 2000 or Windows Server 2003.

“People are moving away from technology we introduced back in 1996, and that’s a good thing,” said Sam DiStasio, Windows server group product manager.

IDC’s Gillen said he considers the quickly approaching NT 4.0 end-of-life date as “the single biggest factor driving people to upgrade” to newer versions of Windows. “Users want a more consolidated set of operating systems to support,” he added.

Once the NT 4.0 expiration milestone is behind it, the server team is expected to charge full-steam ahead to deliver an interim release of Windows Server.

Some time in 2005, according to sources claiming familiarity with Microsoft’s plans, the Windows Server 2003 refresh code-named “R2” is expected to ship.

The R2 release is expected to include many of the 12 to 15 “feature packs,” or Windows Server 2003 layered technologies, that Microsoft has rolled out in the past year. While Microsoft won’t say which of these packs will ship as part of the R2 release, two of its most popular (based on number of customer downloads) have been the Group Policy Management Console and SharePoint Services, DiStasio said.

Then, after Microsoft ships the desktop version of Windows Longhorn (currently expected to be in the second half of 2006, according to sources close to the company), Microsoft is expected to launch Longhorn Server.

In a recent interview with eWEEK, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Windows server division, said Longhorn server will lag Longhorn client by only three to six months.

That is quite different from two- or three-year gap between Longhorn client and server that was projected last year by Brian Valentine, the Microsoft senior vice president in charge of the Windows core operating system division.

Even though Longhorn server already is under development, Microsoft is soliciting customer feedback as to what users would like to see in the product.

The company is expected to reveal more details about Longhorn Server next month.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Microsoft Watch.