The new operating system is the core to the software giant's vision for Web services, built on an architecture known as the .net framework.
Bill Verghte, corporate vice-president .net server management, said Windows. net would address three key business needs: a server focused on IT infrastructure, an application platform, and a server to provide productivity for end users.
He said the goal for Microsoft was to deliver business value in a way that was secure, scalable and reliable. "Windows servers can become a core fabric for connecting people and technologies in businesses," he said, adding that the challenge for Microsoft was to make the new OS an easy platform on which to develop deploy and operate applications and Web services.
In creating the new OS, Verghte said Microsoft had taken feedback from Windows 2000 users to address issues such as group policies, flexibility of the Active Directory and making IIS more secure and reliable.
But backwards compatibility is core to Microsoft's strategy, Verghte said. "Windows .net has not been built from scratch. It is based on the foundation of Windows 2000. This is an evolution."
Microsoft's overall goal for Windows .net, according to Verghte, was to, "Provide the most productive infrastructure platform on the planet for powering connected applications and web services from the smallest workgroup to the largest data centre."
A number of businesses have begun using the new software, including Microsoft internally where the company claims it has improved the scalability of its SAP system.
Linda Apsley, lead programme manager for Windows customer developments, began rolling out the new OS with the company's SAP system when the beta 1 release of the OS became available earlier this year.
"When we put SAP [on Windows .net] into production we consolidated [our data centre] from 19 to 12 servers." Apsley believed the new operating system improved the transaction throughput of SAP by 30%.
US application hoster Divine began running a Web site for its customer, doughnut maker Krispy Kreme, since April 2002.
According to Stephen Johnson, director of infrastructure platforms at Divine, the site runs on a relatively low-spec 500 MHz Pentium III server configured with 1GByte RAM, yet it can support up to 800,000 live sessions connecting to a 2.5GByte database.
Another early adopter is Enterasys Networks. John Roese, chief technology officer, estimated that Windows .net should reduce software development costs by $30,000 per application.