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Longhorn Server – Slip Sliding Away?

The other shoe finally dropped. Microsoft admitted this week that Windows Longhorn Server will ship in the second half of 2007 rather than in early 2007 as the company, many customers and analysts had hoped.

“We’ll be shipping Longhorn [Server] in the second half of 2007,” Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business told attendees for the company’s annual Microsoft Management Summit 2006 in San Diego on Monday.

Microsoft has been stridently saying 2007 for Longhorn Server’s delivery date for two years – though officials have been careful to not be too specific.

Indeed, in light of Microsoft’s delay last month of Windows Vista – previously codenamed the “Longhorn” client – it’s not particularly surprising that Longhorn Server might have slipped as well. (See “Is Windows Vista on a Slippery Slope?” March 22, 2006.) Additionally, the company has repeatedly said that Longhorn Server’s release date – like Vista’s – is not dependent on deadlines but on meeting quality milestones.

Beyond quality issues, while Microsoft developers have worked hard to eliminate timeline dependencies between the two products, given that they are two ends of the same spectrum – client and server – there are still bound to be technologies that intertwine between the two. Company officials did not comment on whether Vista’s delay had any impact on Longhorn Server’s schedule.

The later Longhorn Server arrives, however, the later enterprise IT staffs can begin testing and validating it, and the later Microsoft can recognize revenue for the new server software. And with a slew of other products on the way, from Microsoft and others, that tightly integrate with Longhorn Server, a lot of strategic assets are at stake.

Historically, IT customers have waited for six months to a year and a half before deploying new client or server technologies. (See “Windows Vista Deployment -- Playing the Waiting Game,” February 13, 2006.)

For IT, there are questions around expiration of Enterprise Agreements as well as planned systems deployment schedules. For Microsoft, that could mean a heap of revenue pushed out into fiscal 2008, which begins on July 1, 2007, as well as delayed furtherance of its longer-term technology visions.

Microsoft’s Windows Server Product Roadmap (updated Dec. 6, 2005) states that Longhorn Server will deliver “a next-generation application platform, including updates to the IIS process model, and inclusion of the Windows Communication Foundation infrastructure (previously code-named "Indigo").” View the roadmap here.

According to the roadmap, Longhorn Server will also provide integrated management of Internet Information server, ASP.NET and WCF, as well as role-based deployment meant to lower maintenance demands and heighten security. Longhorn Server will also provide new hardware support, such as dynamic partitioning for Windows "mainframes" and support for PCI Express.

One important new security feature in Longhorn Server ties directly into Vista’s security model. Longhorn Server will provide security enhancements that work in concert with Vista through what Microsoft calls Network Access Protection or NAP.

A Microsoft whitepaper posted online says, “Network Access Protection . . . provides components and an application programming interface that help administrators enforce compliance with health policies for network access or communication.” Using NAP, both third-party developers and administrators can build solutions for validating computers that connect to their networks, provide needed updates or access to needed resources, and limit the access of noncompliant computers.

With NAP in place, when a user tries to connect to the network, that computer’s health state will be validated against the health policies defined by the administrator. Depending on the results, access can be granted, denied or limited until required configuration changes are made.

Longhorn Server itself has been “modularized” on a role-based model so that administrators can install only the parts they need – in order to set up a Web server, or a file and print server, for instance. With Longhorn, Windows Server will also feature a scriptable command-line management interface for the first time.

Of course, it will also sport the new user interface and browser, as well as some file management features, coming in Vista.

Beta 1 of Longhorn Server began last July. (See “What You Need to Know About Windows Longhorn Server,” November 14, 2005.) A Beta 2 release is expected shortly.

This article has been updated since its original posting.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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