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Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 on Wednesday with fanfare at an event in Los Angeles, though Windows Server 2008 won't be generally available for a few more days and SQL Server for a few more months.
Through demos, customer references, and ubiquitous PowerPoint slides, CEO Steve Ballmer and others outlined Microsoft's strategy for enterprise IT and the benefits Microsoft sees in the latest versions of its major enterprise products. "Our dynamic IT strategy focuses in on one thing -- enabling the productivity and agility of developers and IT professionals around the world," Ballmer said.
That sounds well and good, but what it concretely means is informed by several current trends, including the move to Internet services, virtualization, more open IT infrastructures, and a shift toward richer user experiences.
Though companies are increasingly moving to services like Salesforce.com in order to shift some of their basic IT functionality from the data center to the Internet, Ballmer noted that this move is still in its early stages. "Cloud-based work from an enterprise perspective has yet to prove itself from a security and reliability and trust perspective," he said.
Microsoft's new products include an upgraded version of the company's Web server, Internet Information Services 7.0, as well as a litany of Web development technologies. Internet hosting company Rackspace has found that hardware requirements have decreased 16% to 35% per cluster by using IIS 7.0.
Microsoft is making its first major foray into server virtualization with Hyper-V, a forthcoming feature of Windows Server 2008 that today is only available in a test version. "Today, we launch our virtualization strategy in earnest," Ballmer said, leaving out the fact that Hyper-V won't be available in its final version for months. "I think it's well known that we're not the leader in virtualization, but [customers] told us it's too hard, it's too tough and too expensive. Virtualization should be able, if desired, to run on 100% of servers, not on the current 5%, 6%, or 7%."
Last week, Microsoft announced a change in strategic direction that focuses on openness. That strategy is evident in these new products as well. For example, Hyper-V will run virtualized instances of Linux, and IIS 7.0 includes the ability to host PHP applications.
Ballmer touched on this strategy in his keynote, saying that the openness strategy will focus heavily on interoperability and linking people working in IT operations, application development, and application design who previously were disconnected. "Today, Windows is becoming the most popular platform on the planet for running PHP applications, which has a certain irony to it," Ballmer said.
Ballmer also highlighted the new products' improvements in security, such as modular installation, failover additions, federated rights management, and encryption. According to Microsoft, companies testing Windows Server 2008 have seen a 60% reduction in patching by using Microsoft's Server Core modular installation option.
Microsoft's launch event, called Heroes Happen Here and accompanied by other related events around the world, saw the typical fanfare of major Microsoft launch events, as Ballmer declared software developers and IT professionals as "the heart of our industry" and former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw gave a meandering talk on how IT is changing the world.