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Q&A: Microsoft Partners Embrace Windows Server 2008 at WinHEC


One of the stars of the 16th annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles this week is Windows Server 2008 (formerly code-named Windows Server “Longhorn”).

This next-generation server operating system from Microsoft, currently in Beta 3, will be the most reliable and secure server platform ever delivered from Microsoft. Windows Server 2008 builds on the reliability, security and manageability of Windows Server 2003 R2 to help alleviate pressures on IT professionals with added enhancements to further automate daily management tasks, tighten security, provide a more extensible platform for hosting and web applications, improve efficiency and increase network availability. When Microsoft releases Windows Server 2008 to manufacturing later this year, they will include their first widely distributed beta of the new hypervisor based virtualization technology. Windows Server 2008 will enable a range of new solutions from Microsoft and create a wave of hardware innovation throughout the IT industry.

To learn more about Windows Server 2008 and the opportunities it is expected to create for Microsoft partners and customers worldwide, PressPass spoke with Bill Laing, general manager of the Windows Server Division at Microsoft.

PressPass: WinHEC is always an important industry conference. What makes this year’s WinHEC special for you and your team?

Laing: We’re very excited about WinHEC this year because of the progress we’ve made on Windows Server 2008. At WinHEC 2006, we released Windows Server 2008 Beta 2, and over the last year it has been great to see the growing excitement among our customers and partners in response to the advances we’ve made. Just three weeks ago we released Windows Server 2008 Beta 3- a major milestone on the road to RTM. With more than 100,000 downloads of Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 already, it’s clear that customers and partners around the world are taking advantage of the opportunity to download and evaluate this new feature-complete version of Windows Server 2008.

We’re getting positive feedback from customers in our Technology Adoption Program (TAP), and from others who are downloading and evaluating it. What we’re hearing is that Windows Server 2008 installs much more quickly and easily, that the new management tools make it easy to set up and configure server roles, and that stability and reliability are greatly improved. With Beta 3, we’ve added more features, enhanced functionality, and improved performance and overall quality. Between our TAP customers and Microsoft’s internal IT department, we will have close to 1,000 servers running Windows Server 2008 in production environments. We also have several Web hosting companies – such as Applied Innovations, HostMySite, MaximumASP, and DiscountASP – already running Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS7) in live production environments, using a special Go Live license we provide. These companies made the decision to go into production with Beta 3, because they are impressed with the quality and improvements we’ve made in security, reliability and administration.

The new research study Bill Gates talked about in his keynote speech Tuesday highlights another reason why we, and our partners, are excited about Windows Server 2008. The study by International Data Corporation (IDC), which was commissioned by Microsoft, predicts a 20-percent gain in overall Windows-related employment in 2008, specifically related to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. IDC also shows that Microsoft, its partners and the industry should sell more than US$120 billion in products and services in 2008 alone. That is a major opportunity for our partners.

PressPass: What additional improvements do you plan to make to Windows Server 2008 before it is released later this year?

Laing: Now that we’ve reached our feature-complete milestone, the main focus of our development work will be on improving overall quality, including performance and reliability.

Customers can already evaluate the technologies we’re seeing this week at WinHEC, including our new edition for Itanium-based systems and our new failover clustering technologies. We think customers also will be excited by the improvements we have made in power efficiency, networking and file scalability.

PressPass: What is Microsoft doing to help partners adopt Windows Server 2008?

Laing: Throughout the development of Windows Server 2008, we have been deeply engaged with key hardware, software and service partners to make sure we can build out a solid set of offerings for customers around our new server operating system.

We have worked closely with hardware partners to deliver next-generation technology such as dynamic partitioning, more efficient power consumption and server virtualization. We have worked with software partners around the world to ensure they can take advantage of our new application programming interfaces (APIs) for networking, identity management, Web services and manageability, which will enable them to build applications and services for Windows Server 2008. We’re also driving a broad set of readiness efforts with our alliance partners to ensure they are skilled and prepared to help customers deploy Windows Server 2008 when it is released.

PressPass: How are customers responding to Windows Server 2008?

Laing: We’re seeing enthusiastic responses from customers. One good example is Quixtar, a company that supports thousands of independent business owners who sell health and beauty products through Web-based businesses, which have generated more than $6.8 billion in sales since the company was founded in 1999.

With more than 80 percent of its sales coming over the Web, demand on Quixtar’s network and Web servers is high, and performance and security is critical.

Quixtar has been using IIS since the company launched its Web site in 1999. With every major release, the company has seen big benefits and improvements within IIS and Windows Server. When Quixtar got the chance to be involved in the Microsoft TAP for Windows Server 2008 and realized they could focus on IIS7, they jumped at the chance to get a head start on delivering increased value and service to their customers.

Based on the early results, Quixtar expects to achieve improvements in both performance and capacity improvements, administrative cost savings and significant server resource efficiencies.

PressPass: “Anywhere access” is one theme of your keynote address here at WinHEC—why is it so important?

Laing: We all work very differently today from just a few years ago, when everyone sat in their office and worked at a desktop PC. Today, people often work from home, they travel frequently, and they end up logging on from coffee shops, hotel rooms, conference centers and airports. As businesses expand, we’re seeing an increase in the number of companies that have branch or satellite offices, where it may not be possible to provide the same level of IT infrastructure and support their employees would get at the main corporate office.

Anywhere-access means that regardless of where you are located – and whether you are using a home computer, an office computer, a laptop or a Smartphone – you can quickly, securely and seamlessly access the internal resources and applications you need to do your job, irrespective of your access mechanism i.e. wireless or wired.

Several features we have built into Windows Server 2008 – including Terminal Services Gateway, Terminal Services RemoteApp, Network Access Protection, and branch office enhancements such as the Read-Only Domain Controller – make this anywhere-access paradigm a reality.

PressPass: What should hardware engineers and Microsoft partners be thinking about as they plan to adopt Windows Server virtualization?

Laing: Windows Server virtualization will be part of Windows Server 2008 and is a core part of this platform. Last week, we disclosed that a beta version of Windows Server virtualization will be available with the RTM of Windows Server 2008 so that customers and partners can begin testing high availability, server consolidation, dynamic datacenter and test and development scenarios.

Windows Server virtualization is designed to take advantage of the latest advancements in hardware technology, including the new AMD and Intel processors that provide hardware-assisted virtualization. When we release the public beta of Windows Server virtualization, we will publish a set of APIs that partners can use to take advantage of and build their own solutions.

Hardware engineers and partners should also consider that Windows Server virtualization will be available as a role with the Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008. This provides a minimal parent partition and reduces the system resources required by the parent partition as well as the potential attack surface. This will provide customers with an easier to maintain and more secure virtualization solution.

From the outset we’ve designed Windows virtualization products with broad customer adoption in mind, and to provide a compelling solution for core virtualization scenarios.

PressPass: So it seems that Windows Server 2008 is really moving forward and gaining momentum. What’s next from the Server and Tools Business, specifically within the Windows Server Division?

Laing: Windows Server 2008 is not only the foundation for the next generation of infrastructure technologies, but also for the next generation of Web applications, services and server solutions for the home office and small and medium-sized businesses. Some of the key technologies and products coming out of the Server and Tools Business include the next version of Visual Studio, code-named “Orcas,” and the next version of Windows SQL Server, code-named “Katmai.”

Windows Server 2008 will be the foundation for a family of server solutions that will meet the needs of every segment of the market, ranging from the home up to the largest enterprise organizations. For example, “Cougar,” is the code name for the Windows Small Business Server product that will be based on Windows Server 2008. It is aimed at organizations with 5-50 PCs that outsource many of their IT needs to the channel. “Centro” is the code name for a new core infrastructure solution for midsize businesses with 50-250 PCs.

Windows Server 2008 addresses important scenarios that represent critical challenges for many businesses today. For each of those scenarios, we have a chance to work with our partners to create integrated solutions to address those challenges. Whether we’re talking about the need for server virtualization, branch office support, improved security, Web and application platform enhancements, or providing “anywhere access,” Windows Server 2008 is the key.


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