Microsoft will let customers configure the next major release of Windows Server for specific server tasks, rather than selling a host of different Windows Server Longhorn editions tailored to those tasks.
The release, codenamed Windows Server Longhorn and set to ship in 2007, will support much more granular role-based installation than does the current Windows Server 2003. This will include the option to install only the software code needed to support a certain role, such as terminal server or file server.
"We see this more as an option that customers will choose, not that we will package," said Bob Muglia, senior vice-president in charge of Microsoft's Windows Server Division. "Customers are going to want to buy standard Windows Server and then configure it the way they want."
Letting customers run a smaller code base could reduce maintenance costs for customers and create products that are less vulnerable to attack. The move marks a technical shift for Microsoft and could help it to better address the competitive threat posed by Linux, industry analysts have said.
The single Windows Server package is important to customers, especially large enterprises with hundreds of blade servers that want flexibility in how they deploy the software, Muglia said.
"Customers want to be able to create the images that match their business requirements and then deploy those images across the blades. But they want flexibility: Maybe this month they want to run networking services on this blade, but maybe next month they have a specific need around application servers," he said.
Still, Muglia said, plans for how Microsoft will package Windows Server Longhorn have not been finalised. The company will keep track of the market, he said. Today, Microsoft sells some role-based Windows Server editions, such as Windows Server 2003 Web Edition and Windows Storage Server 2003.
Microsoft is on track to deliver a first beta of Windows Server Longhorn in the second half of next year with final release in 2007, Muglia said. Although the server and client teams are "in lockstep", the server product will ship about one year after the client, due in 2006, because it requires more extensive testing, he said.
Although a beta of the Longhorn client is scheduled to be available before Microsoft's second Longhorn-themed Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in September 2005, attendees may have to do without the beta of Windows Server Longhorn.
"Right now that PDC date falls between our betas," Muglia said.
Longhorn Server will not include support for WinFS, the unified storage system that Microsoft identified as one of the three key components of Longhorn at its first Longhorn PDC in October last year. Microsoft already pulled WinFS from the Longhorn client, saying it would ship as an update and be in beta testing when the client ships.
"WinFS is not in Longhorn Server or Longhorn Client," Muglia said. "We have a single code base and WinFS is not there. ... We as a company are still betting on all the features and functionality of WinFS, but it is not part of Longhorn."
WinFS is built on top of the current Windows NTFS and uses relational engine technology from Microsoft's forthcoming SQL Server 2005 database. The storage system promises to make it easier for users to find documents and e-mail messages, for example, by tagging those with XML (Extensible Markup Language) metadata.
Meanwhile, Microsoft as expected has started the beta program for Windows Server 2003 R2, an update to Windows Server that the supplier plans to ship in the fourth quarter of next year.
Windows Server 2003 R2 is an interim release of Windows Server built on top of Windows Server 2003 SP1. It will include most of the feature packs Microsoft has released since the initial Windows Server 2003 release in 2003, including Active Directory Application Mode, Windows SharePoint Services and Automated Deployment Services.
The interim release is intended to fill the gap between Windows Server 2003 and the 2007 release of Windows Server Longhorn. Microsoft in May clarified its Windows Server road map. Plans call for a major release roughly every four years and an incremental update two or two and a half years after each major release.
Microsoft earlier this week also released to testers a release candidate, or near-final version, of Windows Server 2003 SP1. The service pack is a security-focused upgrade for Windows Server 2003 and slated for final release in the first half of 2005.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service