Springboard Upends the Microsoft Roadmap

Security delays with Windows XP SP2 are causing cascading delays all through Microsoft’s delivery schedule.

If the seriousness of a Microsoft security initiative is measured by the havoc it wreaks on the product schedule, then "Springboard" is a monster rivaling even the code-review phase of Trustworthy Computing.

Springboard is Microsoft's code-name for the process of hardening the security of shipping products, especially Windows XP but also Windows Server 2003. The original Trustworthy Computing code review focused on double-checking the security of unreleased products, with the end result that customers would have to upgrade to see better security.

By going back to products it had already released to conduct the Springboard review, Microsoft tacitly acknowledged that it owed its huge installed base of Windows customers some sort of relief from security problems at no additional charge. (Or at least those customers who were using the most recent shipping versions of the products.)

The poster child for the Springboard initiative is Windows XP Service Pack 2. That SP2 is far more than the traditional grab-bag of regression-tested hotfixes is evident in its full name—Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies. The technologies include an overhauled personal firewall, a new security dashboard, pop-up blocking, Internet download blocking and other security features.

Windows Server Road Map
Take these with a few grains of salt, especially anything after the first half of 2005:

2005 (1st Half)
  • Windows Server 2003 SP1
  • Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Extended Systems
  • Windows Update Services
2005 (2nd Half)
  • Windows Server Longhorn Beta 1
  • Windows Server 2003 "R2" Update
  • Windows Server Longhorn Beta 2
  • Windows Server 2003 SP2
  • Windows Server Longhorn

Windows XP SP2 is a huge undertaking. Since Microsoft first disclosed the expanded Springboard role for SP2 last year, the update missed one release target after another until finally getting finished in August. In that way, SP2 is similar to missed delivery dates for Windows Server 2003—which took a serious scheduling hit from the Trustworthy Computing code review.

The security delays with Windows XP SP2, however, are causing cascading delays all through Microsoft's delivery schedule.

The Windows "Longhorn" client is one of the biggest casualties. Long ago, Microsoft talked about 2004 as a delivery target for Longhorn. Then it became 2005. Most recently, Microsoft pushed back the date for Longhorn to 2006, and attributed the delay to the need to throw client OS development resources at Windows XP SP2. With Longhorn server dependent on the Longhorn client, that release is pushed back to 2007 at this point.

The other half of the public Springboard initiative is Windows Server 2003 SP1. Microsoft just revealed that the service pack won't RTM until the first half of 2005—making it more than a year late. Again, OS development resources are needed most urgently for the XP service pack—making the server work a lower priority job.

The only things being rushed out of Redmond these days seem to be announcements acknowledging delays. A hidden gem of a white paper on Microsoft's site called "Windows Server Product Roadmap" was published in mid-June. Already by late July, the entire 2004 deliverable schedule had to be scrapped and the roadmap updated.

Within a month and a half of publication of the roadmap, Windows Server 2003 SP1, Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Extended Systems and Windows Update Services had to be removed from a 2004 section of a delivery table and inserted into a new section labeled "2005 (1st half)." Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Extended Systems and another delayed product, Windows XP 64-bit for 64-bit Extended Systems, both rely on Windows Server 2003 SP1 and will ship next year. Microsoft spokespeople also acknowledge that Windows Update Services saw its release schedule thrown into disarray by Windows XP SP2 delays.

For the record, the roadmap is still a worthwhile read for anyone involved in buying Windows servers. Microsoft seems committed to keeping the document up to date. (View the document here.).

One update that hadn't made it into Microsoft's official roadmap by August was the potential effect of Springboard on Windows Server 2003 "R2." Release 2 will be based on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and an additional CD will contain new "R2" features as an optional installation. According to media reports, Microsoft corporate vice president Andrew Lees told an audience in Amsterdam that R2 is more likely to come in the first quarter of 2006 because developers are busy with Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1.

About the Author

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


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