Q&A: Microsoft Moving Forward on Key Server Technologies

BARCELONA, Spain, Nov. 14, 2006 — 2006 has been another good year for Microsoft’s Windows Server Division — and not just because of resounding progress toward the targeted 2007 release of Windows Server “Longhorn” and considerable strides in virtualization and but also because of advances in high-performance computing.

The division also showed significant growth in the market. Research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker showed that Windows Servers had double-digit revenue growth for the second quarter of 2006 as customers continue to deploy more Windows servers, and Microsoft has maintained the top spot in server sales since 2005.

Bill Laing, General Manager, Microsoft Windows Server Division

At Tech•Ed: IT Forum 2006 today, Microsoft announced progress with two more Windows Server-related technologies – Microsoft Windows PowerShell and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2). They are the latest in a long list of deliverables that the Windows Server Division has turned out this year and that Microsoft will detail with a capacity crowd of nearly 4,800 IT professionals gathered in Barcelona Nov. 14 – 17 for the company’s foremost technology show in Europe.

For more details on how Microsoft is delivering on its commitment to customers for advancing server technologies, PressPass spoke with Bill Laing, the division’s general manager.

PressPass: What’s top of mind for you at the Windows Server Division right now?

Laing: As general manager, I oversee delivery of all Windows Server products, and I’m excited to share the progress we’re making this year. It’s been an extremely productive year and there are many more important developments coming. My primary focus continues to be the delivery in 2007 of a top-quality, integrated server with Windows Server “Longhorn” – the next version of Windows Server. We made Windows Server “Longhorn” Beta 2 available in May. It’s currently available to more than 500,000 subscribers to TechNet and MSDN [Microsoft Developer Network], beta testers, customers and partners.

In associated developments, we’re also making strides in virtualization – a technology that can help customers dramatically reduce their information technology (IT) infrastructure costs, while gaining flexibility. Mid-year we demonstrated and talked in a bit more detail about Windows Server virtualization, which includes the next-generation hypervisor technology which will be delivered in the Windows Server “Longhorn” wave. And more recently we’ve made important announcements with regards to opening up the Microsoft Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format and allowing customers to evaluate our software and partner software within a VHD.

At the IT Forum event, we’re also making announcements about two deliverables – the release to Web of Microsoft Windows PowerShell and the availability of the release candidate (RC) for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2. Both technologies are of utmost importance to IT professionals and developers.

PressPass: Can you provide more details about the release of Windows PowerShell and what this means for customers?

Laing: Windows PowerShell is a new command-line shell and scripting language that helps IT professionals achieve greater productivity, more easily control system administration and accelerate automation, and does not require a background in programming. Another major benefit to customers is that it works with existing scripts such as VBScript and Perl, and IT infrastructures including Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and future operating-system versions – including Windows Server “Longhorn” – thereby offering long-term investment protection to customers.

A number of other Microsoft products work with Windows PowerShell to improve efficiency and productivity, including Exchange Server 2007, System Center Operations Manager 2007, System Center Data Protection Manager V2 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. We are also seeing partners adopting Windows PowerShell including FullArmor, /n Software, PowerGadgets and Quest Software.

We’ve heard positive feedback from customers so far, and we’re pleased to have a customer – MySpace – attending IT Forum this year to share their experience. Allen Hurff, vice president of engineering at MySpace, has said that the benefit of adopting Windows PowerShell is that ad-hoc tasks that used to take the company upwards of 10 minutes can now run in five seconds or less, all the while providing better reporting, greatly-increased accuracy and much less manual labor.

Windows PowerShell can be downloaded today at www.microsoft.com/powershell/download.

PressPass: What’s next for Windows Server “Longhorn”?

Laing: I already mentioned that we put out Windows Server “Longhorn” Beta 2 this past May. Now our focus is on Beta 3 and we’re really excited about it. We’re on track to deliver this beta to a broader set of customers in the first half of 2007.

Windows Server “Longhorn” will bring IT professionals benefits including greater flexibility through server virtualization and better remote access to applications using Terminal Services Gateway. Other benefits include greater control via enhanced scripting, task automation and role-based server configuration and management using Server Manager, and greater protection through increased operating-system hardening and Network Access Protection.

Windows Server “Longhorn” will be a great help in meeting the increasing demands of today’s business. Organizations that deploy it will have increased productivity and a reliable Windows platform for powering and managing applications, controlling network access and delivering critical services to the infrastructure.

PressPass: We’ve heard a lot about virtualization from Microsoft lately. How does this all stack up?

Laing: Adopting virtualization technology is top of mind for IT professionals today for a variety of reasons. The benefits include reduced real estate needs, decreased power consumption and maximization of hardware investments, which in turn lead to significant cost and staff resource savings for businesses.

Our goal is to make the benefits of virtualization more broadly accessible and affordable so that customers can better manage complexity and achieve agility. We’ve made a number of strides in this area. For example, Windows Server virtualization will be an integrated component of Windows Server “Longhorn” and is part of our ongoing effort to make Windows the best platform for physical and virtual environments.

Windows Server virtualization and the Microsoft System Center management tools will deliver business agility and dynamic resource utilization with greater levels of efficiency in both physical and virtualized IT environments. Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager is in public beta today and will be released in the second half of 2007. System Center Virtual Machine Manager is an enterprise management tool for the virtualized data center. Customers will use it to increase physical server utilization, centralize management of virtual machine infrastructure and rapidly provision new virtual machines.

PressPass: Licensing, support and interoperability are three known industry challenges around virtualization. What is Microsoft doing to address them?

Laing: Our virtualization image format is call the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD), and is now available under the Open Specification Promise to drive greater opportunities for customers and partners to realize the value of standardizing on a common virtualization format. In the four weeks since we introduced VHD under the Open Specification Promise, we’ve seen 3,000 downloads of the spec document.

Earlier this month, Microsoft and Novell announced an agreement to enhance interoperability between Linux and Windows. Together, we’ll develop virtualization solutions to deliver the most compelling virtualization offering in the market for Linux and Windows. Our technical experts will run a joint lab, in which they’ll design and test new software solutions and work with customers and the community to build and support these technologies. 

And last week we launched the VHD Test Drive Program, which enables Microsoft and its partners to distribute enterprise software and applications within a virtual machine so that customers can confidently and quickly evaluate Windows Server-based software. These virtual machines are pre-built and pre-configured so that they can be downloaded or distributed for easy setup and evaluation within Virtual Server 2005. We expect more than 20 partners to begin distributing their software via the VHD Test Drive Program later this quarter. Over the coming year, we anticipate our partners will use this program to get more than US$10 billion in software into the hands of IT professionals to evaluate. More information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/try/vhd/default.mspx.

PressPass: What is the Windows Server Division doing to ensure it is continuing to add value to technologies available today?

Laing: As I said earlier, one of the things we’re doing at the IT Forum is announcing the availability this week of the release candidate for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, which is available through the Customer Preview Program (CPP). SP2 not only delivers critical, non-critical and customer-requested updates in one easily installed package, it also provides a range of enhancements designed to heighten security, manageability, reliability and performance in Windows Server 2003.

For example, Windows Deployment Services in SP2 helps customers more efficiently deploy operating systems, including Windows Server “Longhorn” and Windows Vista. The Scalable Networking Pack helps organizations cost-effectively scale network-based applications to meet growing demands. The Microsoft Management Console 3.0 unifies and simplifies day-to-day system management tasks and supports richer functionality in snap-in management tools. SP2 also improves manageability for IPSec (Internet protocol security) – a set of protocols developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force to support secure exchange of packets at the IP layer. SP2 also supports nine new localized languages for the Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions.

Beyond that, in August we announced general availability of Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 (CCS), which is designed to run parallel, compute-intensive applications. Windows CCS brings high-performance computing (HPC) to the mainstream, enabling scientists and engineers to leverage existing skill sets, which allows them to increase productivity and focus on science and not IT. So far we’ve exceeded first-quarter business goals. We had customers acquire multi-hundred node clusters in the financial services and oil and gas industries, and we saw strong uptake in general manufacturing and academia. 

Also, CCS customers can now choose from a variety of horizontal and industry-specific applications, or they can write parallel applications from within the productive and powerful Visual Studio IDE. We’ve also grown the channel so that customers can now acquire Windows CCS from systems partners such as Bull SAS, Dell, Equus Computer Systems, HP, NEC, TeamHPC and TyanPSC. As for the roadmap, we plan to offer a service pack for Windows CCS in the first quarter of calendar year 2007.

We also continue to encourage logo certification for Windows Server 2003 applications, systems and devices. Logo certification – for hardware or software – provides quality products, peace of mind and makes buying decisions easier for IT professionals. Products that achieve logo certification have designed significant product capabilities that improve compatibility, interoperability, reliability and security to provide potential management and support savings. We’ve also made improvements to our Windows Server Logo Program for Windows Server “Longhorn.” The major improvements are to the software logo program, essentially making it better for ISVs (independent software vendors), including simplification of the logo and the certification process, a higher quality bar and increased automation, enhanced benefits of certification and lower cost. 

As you can see, it’s been a busy year for the Windows Server Division, and we expect 2007 to continue at this pace. We’re extremely excited about the milestones that are upcoming, and look forward to another great year.

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