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Windows Server Roadmap 'Out of Band'

NEW ORLEANS -- Just because Windows Server 2003 launched a few weeks ago doesn't mean Microsoft is finished with it.

In a keynote Wednesday at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference about the future of Windows servers, Dave Thompson detailed dozens of major improvements to the server platform that will be released in the coming months and years.

"Innovation does not have to wait for major releases," said Thompson, corporate vice president for Windows servers. He proceeded to detail some of the major enhancements slated for 2003 alone in a category he called "out of band" releases.

First Microsoft plans to release iSCSI support in June, followed by another storage enhancement in the form of its 3.0 release of a Network Attached Storage appliance version of Windows. A technology called Automated Deployment Services will follow in the third quarter, with Virtual Server technology coming in the fourth quarter and support for AMD 64-bit processors being delivered with the first service pack for Windows Server 2003 near the end of the year.

Thompson's "out of band" roadmap" follows a set of add-on services that Microsoft has delivered or is in the process of delivering for Windows Server 2003. They include SharePoint services, Real-time Communications services and Digital Rights Management services.

The situation is very different from the release of Windows 2000 three years ago. Application load balancing was pulled from that release and delivered later in Application Center 2000, but Windows 2000 was primarily done at launch. At the same time, a few months after the February 2000 launch, Microsoft had fairly firm ideas by the WinHEC show in April of that year about what Whistler server would consist of. When Whistler server -- Windows Server 2003 -- shipped last month, it did include most of the features promised at WinHEC 2000.

This time around, Microsoft's public roadmap on the server side remains very cloudy, and Thompson did little to clarify it on Wednesday. He made no reference to the ongoing debate about the on-again-off-again plans for a Longhorn server and offered no timeline for Blackcomb.

In a recent interview, Windows server group product manager Bob O'Brien said that the Windows server team's reversals over how to handle Longhorn illustrate changes at the company.

"We're moving toward a more mature model that lets customers get at new functionality incrementally," O'Brien said.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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