More Microsoft Server Changes On Tap For 2006

The company is working to converge SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) and Content Management Server (CMS) functionality into a single server system due in 2006, CRN has learned.

SPS, the focal point of Microsoft's collaboration strategy, hosts departmental collaboration sites and deals with Web pages. CMS is geared more for traditional content management use.

"CMS and SharePoint are merging, and it makes sense," said one source close to Microsoft.

A solution provider in the Northwest concurred that the rationale is sound. "We're doing a lot of point integration between CMS and SPS. I don't think we have one CMS deal that does not also include the portal," the partner said.

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Microsoft remained mum.

"It's too soon to comment about the future of SharePoint products and technologies or Content Management Server at this point," said Erik Ryan, product manager of Microsoft Office SharePoint.

But several sources said the plan is a go for 2006, with the new server system to be part of the Office 12 product launch wave. Office 12 is the planned successor to Office 2003.

Microsoft's server plans have been fluid for some time. Three years ago, the company announced--and then nixed--plans for an e-business suite that was to have melded functions offered by its content management, e-commerce and BizTalk servers. Since then, it has worked to tighten both organizational and technical ties between SPS and CMS.

Just over a year ago, Microsoft moved CMS into the SPS group, which is part of the company's broader Information Worker business unit. That, in theory, moved CMS out of the Server Applications group.

Microsoft is building Office-labeled servers with tight ties to Office front-end applications in hopes of driving more Office revenue and upgrades, partners say. There are even plans for server versions of some Office desktop applications.

A partner in the Midwest said Microsoft research indicates that better CMS/SPS integration is needed. "As a result, they're doing a server system that will offer collaboration, portals and content management," the partner said.

A VAR in the Southeast said Spark, the year-old connector for CMS and SPS, leaves much to be desired.

The melding of the offerings will come under the rubric of a Microsoft Document Lifecycle Management push, others said.