Thought for the day: Stepping off the server merry-go-round

Choosing a server for your business is expensive and time-consuming. It doesn't help when Microsoft is trying to convince you...

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Choosing a server for your business is expensive and time-consuming.  It doesn't help when Microsoft is trying to convince you that upgrading or buying a new server is good for your business, says Simon Moores.



It must have been late last summer, at the Microsoft Campus on future operating systems, that I asked how many people in the audience were using Windows NT, Windows 2000 and, of course, Windows XP.

It came as no great surprise that people were still quite happily using Windows NT, but the number of people doing so was rather more than I expected. 

Windows 2000 migration was still very much "work in progress" and in between were those organisations, in both the private and the public sector, that couldn’t decide whether they should jump straight to Windows XP on the desktop, missing out Windows 2000 completely or wait and see what kind of rabbit Microsoft pulls out of the hat next.

Fiddling with the server names hasn’t helped much either. After all, is a server a .net server or .not anymore?

Server software accounts for about 20% of Microsoft's sales, or $3.4bn of the $16.3bn in sales reported in the six months before Christmas.

Even in the middle of an IT recession, Microsoft saw its server sales grow 13% during the period. Convincing its customers to upgrade or buy new servers is important in a flat market. To remind you of some of the recent Windows server releases, between April of 2001 and this month we have had:

1. Windows 2002 Server
2. Windows .net Server
3. Windows .net Server 2003
4. Windows Server 2003

Microsoft claims Windows Server 2003 includes the latest .net components built in, is less expensive to manage, more secure and easier to install than its predecessors.

Of equal importance, in the eyes of many, is that it is also the first server built with Trustworthy Computing as its priority and is defensively priced against Linux.

I’m sure that Windows Server 2003 sounds very attractive if you happen to be starting your business from a blank sheet of paper, but for most IT managers, changing servers every three to five years is not attractive. This involves both cost and business interruption.

Microsoft, as does every company, needs a predictable revenue stream to satisfy its shareholders, but the interests of business and the software industry are opposed where new server releases are concerned.

To make its Trustworthy Computing strategy viable, Microsoft needs to have all its customers singing from the same hymn sheet, and that involves ditching anything that isn’t up to date.

The trouble is that several million servers aren’t easily swapped out overnight, and it’s going to take another three years before the new and improved Windows 2003 occupies the same dominant space in the enterprise that Windows 2000 and Windows NT do today.

This server cycle is an expensive and time-consuming merry-go-round with no solution in sight, and no way for any of us to get off without the unacceptable risk of business interruption in the process.

Meanwhile, Microsoft resembles a one-legged man on a bicycle, who has to keep pedalling new server releases or risk falling off.

What do you think?

Do you plan to keep on scaling the Windows Server ladder?  Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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