The Right Time for Windows Server 2003?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft formally launched Windows Server 2003 on Thursday, after more than a year of delays and several changes in name and focus. During a launch keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer argued that the timing was right for a Microsoft server operating release that improves IT manageability and provides data-center scalability.

Also on Thursday, Microsoft launched Visual Studio .NET 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit).

"Is this the right time to introduce a new server product?" Ballmer said he is often asked. "I think this is absolutely the right time to be bringing incredible new innovation to the marketplace," Ballmer said in a speech called "Do More With Less."

A tough economy helps the case for using PC servers in data-center environments, Ballmer argued. New No. 1 results on the Transaction Processing Performance Council's TPC-C benchmark and on a Siebel benchmark make the case that Windows Server 2003 on Intel processors now scales well enough to do any job, he contended.

Microsoft's CEO also attempted to counter criticisms that Windows Server 2003 represents little more than a 2.0 release of Windows 2000 Server. "This is one of the most significant pieces of work we've ever done," said Ballmer, referring to a screen showing dozens of enhancements and new features in the operating system.

More than 5,000 developers have worked on the 50 million lines of code in the operating system for three years.

It was originally supposed to ship a few months after Windows XP in early 2002. However, production delays pushed that date back even before Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates put the whole project on hold for several months for a $200 million security review.

The product has also gone by various names, from the code-name "Whistler" to Windows 2002 to Windows .NET Server to Windows .NET Server 2003 to Windows Server 2003. Although Microsoft has said that the removal of .NET from the name is a branding issue more than a shift in direction, there was precious little mention of .NET during the launch event, which focused primarily on scalability.

IDC analyst Al Gillen said uptake of Windows Server 2003 should be relatively rapid, owing to its incremental enhancements over Windows 2000 and its tight compatibility with the earlier operating system in mixed environments.

"All the momentum that Windows 2000 currently has, Windows Server 2003 will absorb that really quickly," Gillen said.

Gillen says that in calendar year 2000, when Windows 2000 launched, the new operating system accounted for 22 percent of Microsoft server OS shipments compared to 78 percent for Windows NT 4.0. By contrast, Gillen predicts Windows Server 2003 will make up 29 percent of Microsoft server OS shipments in calendar year 2003, with Windows 2000 accounting for 71 percent of shipments.

Windows Server 2003 comes in six versions: Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition; Windows Server 2003 Web Edition; Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition; Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition for 64-bit Itanium 2 systems; Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition; and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition for 64-bit Itanium 2 systems.

The product is shipping immediately in 13 languages, with other language versions coming in 30-45 days.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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