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Microsoft hopes for a hat trick with three major product launches

New editions of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 underline the vendor's "Dynamic IT" strategy

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has officially launched Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 offerings as part of its Dynamic IT technology strategy, which aims to create flexible and efficient IT environments by leveraging things like virtualization and business intelligence solutions.

David McJannet, group manager of Windows Server System at Microsoft Canada, says he has seen strong interest from partners and end-users around these new technologies. The Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor says of 100,000 worldwide users registered for the SQL Server 2008 Community Technology Preview program before the launch.

“One of the reasons why there’s so much interest is because our goal is to help our customers achieve our vision of Dynamic IT,” McJannet said. “This leads to simpler, easier to use and more self-managing and tightly integrated solutions for businesses.” Microsoft wanted to focus on four key areas of investment when it designed Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, including building a secure and trusted platform, and something that would leverage virtualization and support thin client applications and Microsoft’s BI platform.

Windows Server 2008, which was previously codenamed, “Longhorn,” succeeds Windows Server 2003. Because it is built from the same code that’s also used in Windows Vista, a lot of the functionality and architecture is the same.

One new feature is the Windows System Resource Manager, which allows users to control how many resources or processes are used at a time, according to their business priorities. Server 2008 also comes in a variety of different editions that are available in both x86-64 bit and x86-32 bit versions.

According to Bruce Cowper, senior program manager of Microsoft Canada’s security initiative, Microsoft’s roadmap moving forward will be purely 64-bit.

Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions and software strategy at processor manufacturer AMD (NYSE: AMD), says she has seen a lot of demand for the 64-bit platform.

“When Server 2008 runs on our processors, it will provide users a cost and energy efficient solution that’s ideal for running a variety of applications,” Lewis said. “Operton is designed to scale and work well with Server 2008.”

AMD’s Gary Bixler, director of North America channel marketing, estimates that about 10 per cent of AMD’s overall North American revenue comes from its Canadian channel.

“We’re very excited about the Microsoft technologies as a whole because they have so many great synergies with our processors,” Bixler said. “When they’re together, it enables optimal virtualization practices and efficiencies and a lot of commercial customers have been anxiously waiting to adopt Server 2008.”

For Marty Grosh, director of enterprise services at Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ont.-based IT service provider, systems integrator and Microsoft partner, Server 2008 is a great opportunity for partners to sell to businesses with branch offices.

“Many businesses in Canada have branch offices,” Grosh said. “Server 2008 technology provides ways of being able to provide head office-like functionality, features and performance capabilities in a branch office.”

In dealing with the growing amount of data amongst offices, McJannet says more businesses are looking to virtualization and data consolidation. SQL Server 2008, he says, helps with data storage and management.

“People need to manage their data in an enterprise fashion and that’s something we’re investing in with SQL Server 2008,” McJannet said.

He adds partners can reap the most financial benefits when deploying SQL Server 2008 by bundling BI solutions with it to add further value.

“BI is an area where we’re seeing a phenomenal amount of growth and it’s an area where partners can show immediate value to their customers because it will help them be more competitive in the overall global business environment,” McJannet said, adding with a holistic approach services around intellectual property, files and storage can also be sold with the technologies.

As part of Microsoft’s virtualization strategy, the company has also created the Hyper-V feature for use in Windows Server 2008. Cowper says Hyper-V is a thin layer that sits between the hardware and virtual machine and offers greater performance and security in a virtualized server computing environment.

“One of the challenges and opportunities for the channel is with management,” Cowper explains, adding a lot of virtual machines are not being managed and maintained the way their physical counterparts are due to a lack of education awareness and tools.

“We’re seeing a lot of companies now putting services behind this to let their customers manage, maintain, secure and update their virtualized infrastructures.”

Rini Gahir, senior product manager of developer tools at Microsoft Canada, says partners can expect to receive anywhere between 15 to 20 per cent margins with Visual Studio 2008.

He also said the software was designed to be able to create and support rich application development and interactive applications on the Web and to allow users to build more connected applications by integrating things like Office and SharePoint into them.