Canadians preview Microsoft Windows Server 2008

REDMOND, Wash.- At the worldwide technical workshop for the upcoming Windows Server 2008 on the Microsoft campus this week, Canadian industry executives gathered to discuss what the product features might mean for IT professionals, and what kind of uptake might occur in the Canadian market.

Bruce Cowper, senior program manager for Microsoft Canada’s security initiative, said that Canadians are looking for “a secure, stable base platform; integration into their existing systems; and training and certification for Canadian IT professionals,” when Windows Server 2008 is released to market (after initial delays) next February.

Security is especially important to Canadians, according to Cowper. “They often have smaller organizations, remote users, branch offices, and many different time-zones, so up-time becomes even more critical,” he said.

But regardless of what Canadian server admins want, they might not go after it. Despite, for instance, Cowper’s claims of a “fully integrated” security setup in the new operating system, he admitted, “I see a lot of Canadian companies sit back and look at deployment areas and see how it would affect them (instead of aggressively pursuing earlier adoption).”

John Enck, research vice-president with research firm Gartner, believes that Windows Server 2008 won’t see such a rapid uptake, either. Said Enck: “On a greater scale, this release doesn’t have huge relevance. There’s a ton of little changes, but no real killer features. I don’t see people lining up for it; they will roll it in when they do server refreshes.” He sees the ceasing of Windows Server 2000 support in 2010 as being a potential driver for Windows Server 2008 adoption then.

But, Cowper said, the times of wait-and-see and sticking new server operating systems in during hardware refreshes are fast becoming a thing of the past, and might not be the path that Windows Server 2008 takes into the enterprise. With the advent of more advanced hardware and the significant 64-bit install base, said Cowper, companies that were waiting to take advantage of their hardware now can start making use of virtualization technology-like the Windows Server 2008 hypervisor-based virtualization capabilities that Microsoft is touting.

Marty Grosh, director of enterprise services for the Richmond Hill, Ontario-based IT infrastructure consultancy Compugen and a Microsoft client, said, “The barrier to deployment of putting in everything at once (is dying out). Now people are taking advantage of features, solving businesses problems, and doing things modularly. We’re evolving into virtualization.”

Starting virtualization in an enterprise is also less of a headache than a widespread server-area change in the olden days, said Julius Sinkevicius, Microsoft’s group project manager for Windows Server. “Virtualization is really driving that (piecemeal approach). It’s not disruptive anymore,” he said.

While Microsoft is placing great emphasis on the Hypervisor-based virtualization features on the new server operating system, however, it isn’t what clients crave, according to Vince Londini, researcher with Info-Tech Research Group.

“With virtualization, the best kind works on the bare metal of the server, so that it would be some VMWare competition,” he said, pointing out that the release will also only contain the beta form of the virtualization capabilities, with the full release coming six months after the RTM date.

Another feature that has already been seeding the market well ahead of the product’s 2008 release date is Microsoft’s customer testing and advance implementation programs, including the Technology Adoption Program (which has had 779 beta-3 server deployments), 309 release candidate zero deployments, and 160 enterprise customers in the rapid deployment program (RDP).

One of the Canadian companies in the RDP program is Grosh’s Compugen. Grosh found that the program’s deployment services made for a cost-efficient and pain-free deployment across the widespread branch offices. “The barriers of deployment of using technology early on were really broken down,” he said.

Missing as well is a new file system, said Londini. While a new system, WINFS, had been tested last year, it was pulled, leaving the new release with the old NTFS system, which, he said, customers find slow for data transfer.

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