Windows Server 2003 Launch Focuses on Speed, Security and Customer Success
Windows Server 2003, Windows Server System family, make splashing debut, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer focusing on security, management, and performance enhancements in the newest network operating
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The rain didn’t keep several thousand people from attending the
official launch of Windows Server 2003, which took place at the Bill Graham
Civic Auditorium in San Francisco yesterday. At the same time the company
said it was making both Visual Studio .NET 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise
Edition (64-bit) available.
In a speech dominated by the theme “do more with less,” Microsoft
CEO Steve Ballmer said the new OS has been deployed to 10,000 servers
worldwide, in organizations as diverse as jetBlue, Honeywell, the Kentucky
Department of Education, the London Stock Exchange, Fleischer’s
Bagels, and Rentvillas.com.
The major points of the talk focused on security, management capabilities
and performance in the new operating system.
Security improvements include a redesign of Internet Information Services’
architecture. Version 6.0, included in Windows 2003, provides 60 percent
less “attack surface” by default, according to Ballmer. IIS
won’t be installed automatically when the OS is installed; the administrator
will need to specify installation. Likewise, most services in the Web
site platform have been turned off by default and the services run at
a lower privilege level on the network.
“Will there never be another [security] issue?” Ballmer asked
rhetorically. “I can’t say that. We have built better processes
to respond and help you respond to any issues that come about.”
Ballmer said Windows 2003 will increase IT efficiency by 30 percent,
primarily through server consolidation and automated management functionality.
The Kentucky Department of Education, which serves 700,000 users in 176
school districts, is running 3,500 Windows NT 4.0 servers, in 300-plus
separate domains. According to Tim Cornett, the district’s Active
Directory Engineer, the state expects to consolidate 2,100 domain controllers
to eight, which, he says, “aren’t big boxes—Dell 2600s
with some RAM and hard drives.” Likewise, later this year when the
state installs Titanium, the next version of Exchange Server, the IT staff
expects to shrink its collection of 320 Exchange 5.5 servers by 90 percent.
Chuck Austin, the Kentucky Education Technology System Sr. Project Manager,
said management improvements in Windows 2003 will enable the state to
dramatically improve its change and configuration process. “In 2001
we got ripped apart by Nimda and Code Red. Dropped 160 districts flat
on their face. We don’t have an automated patch management process
in place.” The migration will take the complexity of services and
“collapse that at a central site.” “We’ve done
that to some degree, but with NT 4 we were limited to how much we could
delegate down to sites.”
In his speech, Ballmer made a note of stating that the number one application
for server use is as file servers. “Any new server release has got
to bring something new to that constituency,” he said.
Yet what he espoused as new in this release in that regard—Windows
Sharepoint Services—isn’t available in the shipping product.
It will actually appear as an add-on to customers at an unspecified time
in the future. According to Ballmer, Sharepoint Services is “designed
to take the notion of file and information sharing and collaboration to
next level by letting people communicate and collaborate in a different
and richer way, but still allowing IT to provide access, security and
protection of information.
A demo by Katy Hunter, Group Product Manager of Windows Server, showed
two features of the new service. The first was the ability to recall a
previous version of a file that a user has modified and saved via a “Previous
version” tab in My Documents. The second was a portal interface
that allows a team to work together on a project. The interface showed
a list of shared documents checked out for revision by individual team
members; upcoming events related to the project; tasks associated with
it; and information important to the project derived from another source,
such as business intelligence.
One launch attendee said he’d be interested in adding the Sharepoint
Services portal to his clients’ Web sites. “But I would only
want to do it in a way that all the clients I have feel that they could
access their data quickly without needing another third-party product.”
Michael Nicol, who runs MikeNicol.com, a service integration/network
consulting/asset liquidation firm in San Francisco, said he too was impressed
by the portal service. “I want to do Web-based applications and
hook that up with HTTPS and a site certificate server, to enable remote
users to do an HTTPS connection and cut down on the number of remote site
Michael Jones, an IT professional for DPR Construction, which has 1,200
users, said he was impressed by the Group Policy Management Console. It
consists of a new Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in and a set
of scriptable interfaces for managing Group Policy. The new console is
currently available as a download from Microsoft’s Web site. It
runs on Windows Server 2003 or XP Professional with the .NET Framework
Jones said his company attempts to “mobilize everybody—just
to give people access to their information.”
Over the last year DPR has moved off its Novell backbone and Windows
98 client platform and installed Windows 2000 throughout the organization,
on servers and client devices.
Jones said for his company Windows 2003 would be at least a year off
“because we put so much work and money into that. We can sit back
and watch some of the bugs [get] worked out.”
Corporate Radar CEO Todd Wilson, who is a member of Microsoft’s
partner advisory committee, as an emerging ISV, said new functionality
in the OS is crucial to the success of his company’s latest release.
Corporate Radar 5.0 combines portal, business intelligence and data warehouse
technologies into a single application as a “business intelligence
“Things like the enterprise information framework, some of the
performance enhancements, IIS 6.0 are key to our applications,”
Wilson said. “One of the main things we were hearing from customers
is that they had to restart IIS as part of their normal cycle of events.
With IIS 6.0 being closer to the kernel mode in the operating system,
it has autostart, so that is a tremendous advantage to our customers.”
He said his company has seen a 30 percent increase in application performance
solely by moving from Windows 2000 to Windows 2003.
As it traditionally does, Microsoft took advantage of the launch platform
to trumpet a new world record in transaction performance. In a joint announcement
with HP and Intel, the company said it has surpassed the 600,000 tpmC
mark, a first for non-clustered machines. The benchmark measures enterprise
transaction order handling speed.
Intel President and COO Paul Otellini joined Ballmer on the stage to
announce the new record of 658,277 tpmC. To the loudest applause of the
morning, Otellini said, “This is the absolute fastest transaction
machine on the planet. Bar none.”
The record was achieved on an HP Superdome with 64 processors running
Madison, the next generation of Intel’s Itanium chip, with Windows
Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit).
Although few organizations in the world require the high end systems
that can handle that level of performance, the importance of the record
can’t be underestimated, according to Group Product Manager Bob
“What’s important about it isn’t the business activity happening,”
O’Brien said. “It’s the flexibility the customer has.
The customer is looking at a common architecture, a common set of tools.
I can redeploy for different business scenarios.”
Another advantage: “32-bit and 64-bit are priced exactly the same.
It’s all even across the board.”
O’Brien acknowledged that the launch this time around was much
more sedate than the launch three years ago for Windows 2000, which featured
celebrities and a dramatic unveiling of a giant wall of servers running
“Windows 2003 is the first time we’ve done a server-only
launch. Windows 2000 was still the desktop and server. [Client launches]
tend to have a much more flamboyant style. Here we’re talking to
CIOs and CEOs—who are in business... As the product matures, you
take on a more mature approach to how you present your products.”
Although it played a role in many of the customer migration stories shared
at the launch, HP sees new business also coming from a different direction.
Rick Fricchione, vice president for Enterprise Microsoft Services in
the HP Services division of HP, said he expects the new release to have
great appeal for the small and medium business market. “The majority
of those customers are still on NT 4. The support for that is winding
down. The OS is getting tired, after five-plus years. What you’re
finding is that customers are outgrowing what the OS can do for them.”
As he explained, those customers bypassed Windows Server 2000 because
they only do a migration “once every four or five years.”
For that reason, he said, he expects HP to get a lot of business in the
Microsoft gave little attention in the keynote to the general availability
of Visual Studio .NET 2003 and the .NET Framework version 1.1, though
it played a major role in several of the Windows Server 2003 customer
stories. For example, the London Stock Exchange, with the help of consulting
firm Accenture, built its new system for feeding stock traders market
information with the new development tools.
The company said registered users of Visual Studio .NET 2002 can acquire
the release for $29. It’s also offering a limited number of ViewSonic
V37 Pocket PC devices to customers who purchase and register their product
by June 30.
Overall, whether it was the free handouts such as yo-yos and dashboard
cellphone mats that Microsoft put in attendee bags, the prolific amount
of free food it served, or the general excitement of being part of a launch
event, attendees were enthusiastic about the arrival of Windows Server
As Carl Alexander, Chief Technology Officer for Trinity Web Services,
who attended the event, concluded, “We’re moving in the right
direction with [Windows Server] 2003, with a product that I believe is
going to revolutionize the way that Microsoft fits into that space of
scalability and doing more with less.”
Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.