Q&A: Advancing the Windows Platform with Windows Server “Longhorn”

SEATTLE, May 23, 2006 – Today at Microsoft’s annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), hardware developers and system designers are getting a firsthand look at the most recent technology advances for the Microsoft Windows platform. Along with hearing the latest on the evolution of Microsoft Windows Vista, attendees are learning about key features in Microsoft Windows Server “Longhorn” – the code name for the next generation of Windows Server – that they can apply in their server hardware designs and development strategies.

To get more insight into the status of server-side development for Windows, PressPass caught up with Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. Muglia helped kick off WinHEC 2006 by giving a keynote address titled “Infrastructure for the People-Ready Business: Winning with Windows Server,” in which he provided details about the latest deliverables on the Windows Server “Longhorn” roadmap and partner opportunity.

PressPass: What did you announce in your keynote today at WinHEC?

Muglia: The Microsoft Windows Server team is excited to make several significant announcements this year at WinHEC on how Microsoft is investing in market opportunities for partners in order to make it easier for IT Pros.

First, as of today, we’re making the beta 2 release of Microsoft Windows Server “Longhorn” available to more than half a million people. That number includes subscribers of Microsoft TechNet and MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network), beta testers, customers and partners in our Technology Adoption Program (TAP) and everyone attending WinHEC 2006. We look forward to hearing what people think as we broaden the scope of customer and partner feedback on our next-generation server operating system. We also think that this beta 2 release will benefit customers evaluating Microsoft Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office System because many of the features in Windows Server “Longhorn” are also designed to support the deployment of these technologies — for example, Windows Deployment Services, Network Access Protection, Terminal Services Gateway, our new Internet Information Services 7.0 and a new TCP/IP network stack.

I was also excited to announce our intent to acquire Softricity, Inc., to round out our virtualization offering to customers. Softricity’s application virtualization and streaming technologies provide application compatibility and will help accelerate virtualized desktop transitions.

To help customers streamline the management of their virtual environments, we’re announcing the development of a product called Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and we plan to release a public beta version of it within the next 90 days. This product enables increased physical server utilization, centralized management of the virtual machine infrastructure and rapid provisioning of new virtual machines by the administrator and end users.

Also, a beta of Windows Server Virtualization, our hypervisor-based solution, is scheduled to be available end of this year for customers and partners. We’re giving WinHEC attendees an early look at this technology, which we expect will be available with Windows Server “Longhorn” and we plan to release it within 180 days of Windows Server “Longhorn” RTM.

Bob Muglia, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Server and Tools Business

We also announced innovations for the Windows Server technologies that customers are currently using The Windows Server 2003 Scalable Networking Pack, available for download today, adds support for the next generation of network acceleration and hardware-based offload technologies. The goal is to help Windows Server 2003 customers achieve better server performance, so they can scale their server workloads more cost-effectively. This will enable our customers to realize greater benefits from today’s high-speed networks and meet the growing demands placed on their IT assets.

We’re incredibly pleased to be delivering news about so many important Windows Server technologies – and to further show our commitment to innovating for both current and future server technologies for our customers.

PressPass: What would you like WinHEC attendees, Microsoft’s industry partners and customers to understand about the Windows Server “Longhorn” beta 2 release?

Muglia: WinHEC is a time for us to take a moment to connect with our partners and talk about the opportunities with Windows Server “Longhorn” and Microsoft’s other technologies. We’ve thought long and hard about the key areas of investment and are focused on providing customers with the right server for the right job paired with universal distributed storage and achieved through self-managing dynamic systems. As the world of work continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure organizations who deploy Windows Server “Longhorn” can improve the overall effectiveness of their applications, collaboration and operations infrastructure with technology that enables specific scenarios like branch management, small business and high-performance computing.

We see storage growing – specifically in the iSCSI and SAN markets. Here, we’re making investments like the recent String Bean acquisition and working with partners to create industry-standard hardware and ensure storage solutions are ubiquitous and accessible.

You’ve heard us talk about the importance of helping our customers move towards a more dynamic state through virtualized infrastructures and we see the higher performance availability in x86 and 64-bit hardware contributing to this opportunity. We continue to make investments, including our planned acquisition of Softricity, and we’ll continue to work with partners to maximize the opportunities for the benefit of our customers.

The beta 2 milestone is a good time for our customers and our industry partners to begin testing this product. I really encourage them to sign up for MSDN or TechNet to download the beta and give it a test drive. We’re building on our development experience with Windows Server 2003, to really understand our customer needs and to solicit input from customers and our industry partners during the development of Windows Server “Longhorn.” As a result of that input, this is going to be the most customer-driven release to date. We anticipate delivering a significantly more secure, reliable and robust server environment than ever before. We’re pleased to be on track with the Windows Server roadmap, and we’re eager for people to start testing the product.

PressPass: In the past, you’ve talked about key commitments around security, server roles and so forth. What’s your vision for Windows Server “Longhorn”?

Muglia: We envision Windows Server “Longhorn” delivering benefits in four key areas, all of which we defined in direct response to customer input. For example, IT pros raised the issue that constantly applying security patches is time-consuming and disruptive. They also told us they need an operating system that performs and scales well and supports the latest hardware innovations. Based on that input, we made “Improved Fundamentals” a top design criteria. We focused on making Windows Server “Longhorn” a solid foundation for running an organization by providing the security, reliability and performance that businesses need. A second set of issues revolved around customers getting better control and manageability over their server infrastructure. For example, IT managers told us they want to be aware of problems and fix them before users are affected. They also said they want better system-management tools built in to the server operating system. We responded by making “Greater Control” a key design objective and included functionality such as policy-based networking in Windows Server “Longhorn,” as well as new tools to centrally configure and manage server roles and resources.

A third source of customer pain had to do with companies needing their infrastructure and applications to be available on demand, since any downtime has a direct impact on IT and end user productivity. For example, some IT managers said they hesitated to attempt any system maintenance during work hours because it could cause a service outage and disrupt employee workflow. Others complained about spending too much time just trying to keep things running and not enough time improving systems and adding business value. In response to those and similar concerns, we made “High Availability” a key design objective for Windows Server “Longhorn” and we are building in new levels of responsiveness to maximize uptime and productivity. A fourth area of customer input related to having an agile infrastructure. For example, customers told us they wanted to use their current servers more efficiently so they wouldn’t have to keep buying servers whenever they added an application or service. They also wanted to be sure that their existing applications would be compatible if they upgraded their server operating system. Based on that input, we made “Greater Flexibility” a priority and designed Windows Server “Longhorn” to adapt easily to new business scenarios and changing organizational needs.

PressPass: How do you see Microsoft innovating around Windows Server technologies in ways that benefit IT professionals?

Muglia: At Microsoft, we believe business success is driven largely by people. Businesses don’t achieve insight, make decisions or close deals. People do. And a company that empowers its people with the right tools, information, resources and opportunities to drive the business forward is a company that is likely to excel. We think software is a big part of the answer to that question. Software helps IT pros manage complexity and achieve agility. And software helps businesses harness information, transform data into insight and turn ideas into action. We view Windows Server “Longhorn,” along with Windows Vista, as the foundation for building the people-ready business, and are designing these products to enable IT pros to get more control over their infrastructure, better manage systems and increase reliability and flexibility, so they can spend less time focusing on day-to-day management tasks and more time providing service to their customers.

Also, it’s worth noting that Windows Server “Longhorn” and Windows Vista originated as part of a single development project, and as such, they share a number of new technologies across networking, storage, security and management. When they branched into separate releases, those enhancements remained in place, so organizations that deploy both operating systems together can expect to see additional manageability, performance, productivity and security advantages from the combined client-server infrastructure.

PressPass: Today you announced the availability of the Windows Server 2003 Scalable Networking Pack What customer problem is this technology intended to solve?

Muglia: The Scalable Networking Pack — which is the first deliverable of Microsoft’s Scalable Networking Initiative — focuses on eliminating the operating-system bottlenecks related to the processing of network traffic loads. As network speeds increase to multi-gigabit and beyond, more CPU cycles will be needed to drive network devices at the speeds that are available to them. This has the potential to limit server scalability, such as the number of users that each server can support. The innovations and architectural enhancements in our new Scalable Networking Pack allow customers to, in effect, turbo charge their Windows Server systems and achieve higher server performance. This is accomplished by offloading potentially CPU-intensive packet processing to specialized network adapters, which then frees up the host’s CPU to perform more application-related tasks, such as supporting a larger number of users or responding to network inquiries more quickly. Depending on the type of workload that’s running, you could see a reduction in the CPU overhead related to network packet processing ranging from 20 to 100 percent. At the same time, because of innovations like Receive-side Scaling, which enables better utilization of multi-processor server investments, you could also experience as much as a 40 percent increase in network throughput.

In my WinHEC keynote we showed two demos to help our customers understand what impact the Scalable Networking Pack enhancements will have. In both demos, we used two servers with matching hardware specs and gigabit network adaptors. To show how offloading network packet processing can reduce overall CPU load, one server had the Scalable Networking Pack enabled and the other didn’t. The first scenario used a standard network benchmarking tool to simulate the same traffic load to both servers – approximately 1,000 concurrent connections. The server with the Scalable Networking Pack was able to handle this same load at more than half the CPU utilization than the server without these enhancements. The second demo applied this same approach to the Windows Server 2003 media services workload. This time, we showed how the server with the Scalable Networking Pack was able to handle over 500 more connections at half the CPU load as the same spec server without the Scalable Networking Pack. By offloading these network connections to the specialized network adapter, Windows Server 2003 customers will be able to do even more with less.

PressPass: Where can customers get hardware support for scalable networking innovations?

Muglia: We have a rich ecosystem of industry partners — independent hardware vendors as well as OEMs — offering compatible network adapter hardware, either as add-on cards or as part of the next generation of server hardware offerings. This level of support means customers have a range of options in terms of which scalable networking technologies fit their scenarios best, plus they can get the hardware support from vendors that are already familiar to them. We’ve posted a list of vendors offering compatible network adapter hardware at www.microsoft.com/snp.

PressPass: How can customers get the Scalable Networking Pack?

Muglia: Customers can go to our new Scalable Networking TechNet site, www.microsoft.com/snp, to learn more about the scalable networking enhancements we have available, as well as to download the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Scalable Networking Pack. The Scalable Networking Pack is available today at no charge to existing and future customers of Windows Server 2003, and requires Service Pack 1 (SP1) or later. We encourage customers to begin testing the Scalable Networking Pack enhancements with compatible hardware to see how these innovations can help scale their existing investments to meet the growing demands placed on them.