No Windows Server Shipped Before Its Time

Microsoft says it's adjusted its production scheduling after listening to user feedback asking it to provide ship dates.

MOUNTIAN VIEW, Calif. -- Next week, Microsoft will launch a print and ad campaign centered on its Windows Server System in response to user feedback, officials with the software giant said.

Valerie Olague, director of marketing for the system, previewed the new products on Thursday at an informal lunch on Microsoft's Silicon Valley Campus here. The Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor said it is continuing to build an integrated product line that can act as a development platform.

While touting Windows Server System's integration and deployment benefits, Olague said Microsoft has changed its product release strategy. The company has been criticized for shipping buggy products, then fixing them with a stream of patches. For the next release of this line of servers, she said no product will ship without the availability of patterns and practices, which are published recommendations for specific types of configuration or deployment.

Also by the next release, Olague promised that all products would be consistent, with Web support, incident level reporting support and consistent Software Assurance terms. Microsoft will also publish product roadmaps, even at the risk of not sticking to them.

"When you stop product development to make sure reliability is 100 percent," she said, "you'll slip a date. We will slip a release date to make a product secure."

Customers told Microsoft that knowing the planned release date let them plan their spending and upgrades, and it was valuable information even if the date later changed.

Olague acknowledged that the lack of release information made the company's Software Assurance program less valuable. In Microsoft's earnings statement earlier this week, CFO John Connors reported that uptake of the SA program was not as good as the company expected.

Microsoft has begun to respond to industry criticism that its products have too many security holes. Olague said the server team had stopped development of new products or services and focused on security. "We now ship with the tightest security," she said. The current line allows managers to shut down the servers if something untoward happens.

"We still want to build in capabilities to understand and anticipate, rather than react," she said. In future the Server System may include quarantining and auto-detection of problems, with user-defined actions in response. Despite its newfound security emphasis, she said that Microsoft will continue to rely on third-party developers to handle anti-virus software and updates.

Two years in the making, Windows Server System is part of Microsoft's "integrated innovation" vision. It integrates with VisualStudio .NET, so that developers can use the authoring tool to write server software.

"We're taking the best of what we've done with BizTalk Server and BizTalk Orchestration and baking it into the server infrastructure," Olague said. BizTalk Orchestration is a high-level development tool for melding disparate applications into Web services.

Microsoft said it hopes that the ad campaign launching next week will send the message that servers are part of the company's core technology strategy. The campaign features four customers: Siemens, Toyota, Motorola and Reuters. Reuters built a development platform called Reuters Architecture for product integration and Delivery (RAPID) on the server platform; it will use RAPID to create high-value information services.

"We built a lot of functionality into the platform," said Bill Evjen, Reuters technical director, "so the products themselves could be thinner, and we could build them faster."

Olague ended the presentation by reiterating Microsoft's integration goals. She told the audience that, while the configuration of dynamic systems isn't an easy thing, "It's front and center of what we think about."

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