A new report from research firm Directions on Microsoft says that Windows
Server 2003 is a win-win-win product.
Customers can optimize use of
hardware, IT staff and physical space by consolidating servers. Microsoft
partners can make money by helping businesses with planning and migration.
And Microsoft can use the consolidation advantage as a carrot to get
customers to move off older but good-enough versions of Windows.
It’s not that there is one outstanding improvement to the software that
makes Windows Server 2003 worth buying, said the report’s lead author,
analyst Michael Cherry. As Microsoft adds more and
more features, improvements tend to be incremental.
Microsoft made several enhancements to Windows Server 2003 that
facilitate consolidating servers for several functions, the report says.
Improved support for network-attached storage and storage area networks
lets print and file servers access data efficiently. The Volume Shadow Copy
Service, which takes snapshots of stored data, speeds back up and
restoration; third-party back-up software and service providers often
perform this function.
The Windows System Resource Manager feature pack for Windows Server 2003
Enterprise and Datacenter Edition prevents any application from hogging the
server’s resources. This and other feature packs, along with products such
as OS virtualization software, make consolidation more feasible.
Microsoft improved File Services, Active Directory Services and the IIS
Web server, the report said. Changes in the way File Services manages memory
internally and transfers files across the network reduce the amount of time
it takes for File Services to respond and transfer data to clients. Reduced
response time for Active Directory operations can help increase server
capacity by letting it process a greater number of transactions.
The Internet Information Services (IIS) Web server better isolates
processes, reducing the security risk. However, the report warns,
heterogeneous applications running on the same server can interfere with
each other, for example, if two of them require different parameters for an
“You have to look beyond just the features and look for new applications
for the server itself,” Cherry said. “We’re saying the improvements they
made in performance, availability and storage — all of these little
incremental improvements — add up to a scenario where it finally makes sense
to look at server consolidation.”
Many companies just threw cheap servers at capacity problems, but this
practice leads to management nightmares, as the IT staff struggles with
myriad software and hardware configurations. Server consolidation is one
element in a more organized, reliable and maintainable IT infrastructure,
according to Directions on Microsoft. Consolidating data on fewer servers
can improve the opportunity for data mining and analysis.
But there are downsides to consolidation, the report says. The biggest is
that failure of one component will have a greater impact, so the company
should maintain an appropriate level of redundancy and develop a disaster
The IT staff will need more sophisticated management skills when several
different applications run on a single server, and planning downtime for
maintenance becomes harder.
Finally, infrastructure such as the network may
Support for 64-bit processors, available in the Enterprise and Datacenter
Editions, will let companies take advantage of the increased speed available
for data crunching. Windows Server 2003 addresses up to 512GB of memory.
64-bit computing as a way to provoke the market for hardware and OS
However, Directions on Microsoft said there’s no indication that other
server software, such as Exchange, BizTalk or Microsoft Operations Manager,
will exploit 64-bit processing, which will limit the benefits businesses
“One of the frustrations with Microsoft is their roadmaps are incredibly
vague,” Cherry said. “Mr. Gates stood up at the WinHEC conference and said
to everybody, ‘Do 64-bit device drivers. We think 64-bit is going to be
important.’ Thank you, Mr. Gates, but the rest of your company doesn’t seem
to think it’s as important.”
Cherry called on the company to provide
definitive guidelines for whether and when it will move software to 64-bit.
Cherry cautioned that consolidation and migration to Windows Server 2003
is no easy task. The organization must determine which applications are
running on which servers, identify potential incompatibilities, the resource
requirements of each application and the appropriate systems management
procedures and tools.
Then, the company should consider organizational issues such as how to
charge back departments or lines of business for server use. Finally, it
should map out the steps required to perform the actual consolidation. This
is the sweet spot for VARs and partners.
“You want to have somebody who’s done it before, you don’t want to be
pioneering,” said Cherry. “It’s a very worthwhile investment to work with a
partner who had handled consolidation before.”
Cherry said Microsoft
Partners looking for a sector that will be lucrative for a few
years would do well to gain expertise and credentials in server