Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2008, Accents Integration

Microsoft on Wednesday officially rolled out Windows Server 2008, but it used the roll-out party to emphasize the tight integration between Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and the upcoming SQL Server 2008.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during his keynote address at the Windows Server 2008 launch in Los Angeles that, thanks to the Internet, the various products have already been analyzed and reviewed. That left Microsoft to instead focus on how the products interface with each other to help what he called the "heroes" of the IT industry, the developers and designers who bring new applications to their customers.

"The heart of our industry is the software developers and IT personnel. . . who go out every day to make their companies better, build their organizations every day, driving the heart and soul of this industry," Ballmer said.

Steve Ballmer


Photo by Kim Kulish

Microsoft's "dynamic IT" strategy, which is the company's vision for making it possible for multiple people to collaborate across the entire spectrum of Microsoft products on a dynamic basis, is focused on one thing, Ballmer said. "We're enabling the productivity and the agility of IT professionals around the world," he said.

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Microsoft is addressing four big industry trends that both impact and enable how users can drive IT, Ballmer said.

The first, software and services and the needed Internet-based infrastructure, is still in the early stage, Ballmer said. For instance, he said that hosted services from the "cloud" have yet to prove themselves. Ultimately, he said, such services will remove many of the processes customers rely on from central locations to the cloud.

The second is virtualization. The opportunity here to make a difference is huge, Ballmer said, as probably less than 5 percent of the worlds servers are virtualized. "It's all about eliminating the cost and complexity of deploying IT assets," he said.

The third is development for openness. Ballmer said that this is not about open source, but about open collaboration between designers of rich user experiences and the code developers, which needs to be linked from the beginning of the development process.

The fourth is a richer user experience. Ballmer said the industry is on the latest swing of the pendulum which swung from rich user experience to simple browsers and back to rich user experience.

"These powerful technology trends give us an opportunity to drive dynamic IT," he said.

Microsoft is addressing those trends with a number of new features across the newest releases of Visual Studio, Windows Server, and SQL Server.

Many of those relate to providing a secure and trusted foundation for users, Ballmer said, especially in how the company has hardened Windows Server 2008 and its other new products.

For instance, he introduced the server core, which is a user-customizable version of a Window Server implementation with no user interface to eliminate many security concerns. The server core works with Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) to ensure no attacks can reach it. It is further protected with a read-only domain controller, Ballmer said.

Microsoft has also added high-availability clustering for Windows Server 2008, and data mirroring in its new SQL Server to protect against data loss. Also new is a Resource Governor for SQL to enable the transfer of resources from one user to another as needed to ensure that those resources are continuously available.

Microsoft has also added compliance and governance features such as Network Access Protection (NAP), which allows Windows Server to inspect new users, including those working with Linux, to ensure that all required patches and protection schemes are in place before allowing them into the network. Also included is federated rights management which allow users and their suppliers, customers, and partners to exchange information and mutual access rights with each other to make it easer for them to communicate. Microsoft is also adding encryption to SQL Server, Ballmer said.

Virtualization will also be a big part of Microsoft's strategy going forward, including server virtualization with Hyper-V in another six months or so, desktop PC virtualization with Windows Vista Enterprise, application virtualization, and presentation virtualization using Windows Terminal Services. All those types of virtualization will be managed by Microsoft System Center.

The goal is to democratize virtualization, Ballmer said. "I think you know that we are not the leader in virtualization," he said, with an implied nod to market leader VMware, Palo Alto, Calif.

That democratization will require Microsoft to work with Linux, and with management tools that work with other virtualization vendors such as VMware.

Microsoft Visual Studio was released late last year, while Windows Server 2008 was released on Wednesday. Microsoft's roadmap calls for Windows HPC Server for high-availability requirements, Windows Essential Business Server for customers with five to ten servers, Windows Small Business Server for companies with a single Server, SQL Server 2008, and version 2.0 of its Silverlight application for ensuring users have a consistent experience across multiple platforms and browsers, to be released during the rest of the year.