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March 26, 2008

Microsoft launches its 2008 server arsenal

Claiming it is the biggest enterprise-focused launch ever, Microsoft yesterday launched Windows Server 2008 (formerly code-named Longhorn), Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 in a series of worldwide and online events.

By Jason Stamper

Visual Studio 2008 has been around since last November, so the focus was really on Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

Since we attended the event in London and it only wrapped up just before we went to press, here we digest what we saw as the biggest news for enterprise customers, with more analysis tomorrow.

For Windows Server, the talk centered on its HyperV virtualization capabilities. Today these ship with the server in beta form, and will hit general availability within 180 days of the beta launch (which means early August). The technology will enable customers to virtualize Windows as well as non-Windows operating systems, relatively inexpensively.

The basic license for Windows Server 2008 will enable one instance of Windows Server to be virtualized, while the Enterprise Edition enables up to four instances, and the Data Center Edition as many as you like. The fee goes up with each edition, of course.

Gareth Hall, Microsoft technology strategist, told us that Microsoft wants to be the best platform on which to virtualize Windows and other operating systems, and also be the best guest operating system virtualized on other platforms.

At launch the beta version of HyperV will virtualize just Windows Server 2003 and Server 2008, but Hall said the company plans to add numerous other Windows and non-Windows operating systems. Its previous Virtual Sever product could virtualized 29 Windows and non-Windows operating systems, of which nine were Microsoft platforms.

Aside from virtualization there were numerous other enhancements to Windows Sever that we will talk more about tomorrow. With Hall saying there are around 1.8 million Windows Server licensees in the UK alone, it’s clear why there is a lot of excitement – or perhaps trepidation – about any new release.

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Meanwhile, on the SQL Server 2008 front, Keith Burns, database architect for Microsoft in EMEA, told Computer Business Review there are a number of key enhancements. Policy management has been added so companies can stipulate how individual databases should look and be populated, something he says is unique to Microsoft, at least at the database layer.

There is a resource governor that helps manage workloads from different applications or users in order to maximize efficiency and reduce bottlenecks, and there is encryption capabilities too. Microsoft has also added geo-spatial capabilities so any data with an address element can now be analyzed geo-spatially, integrating with Virtual Earth in order to overlay the data on maps.

There has been more work on data warehousing, analytics and the report-writing capabilities, Burns told us, and it goes without saying that the firm is claiming scalability and reliability improvements too.

Our View

Microsoft desperately needed this launch to claw back some mind share from the likes of VMware in virtualization, and keep up its pressure on commercial and open source database and operating system firms. Not least MySQL, the open source database firm just bought by Sun.

Like so many areas, Microsoft has a strong position in all of these camps already. To give some idea of the interest in Windows Server 2008, it has seen four million downloads of the beta version already, compared to a million downloads of the beta version of Windows Server 2003 before its launch.

The company also likes to point out that it ships more databases than Oracle and IBM put together, though it concedes that shipping numbers are not the same as who makes the most money from them.

Microsoft claims to have around 70% of the server operating system market, which equates to 1.8 million server instances in the UK alone. The latest enhancements are likely to help to maintain its current position, though we must question whether the firm has done enough to stall the rise of rival commercial and open source operating systems and databases. But with its current market shares in each of its sectors, it doesn’t need to kill too many competitors to maintain a pretty decent business of its own.

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