Better security is the biggest draw of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft's recently-launched operating system. However, IT pros are also worried about first-version bugs bedevilling the system, which is due for official release next Wednesday.
That's according to a survey from US reseller CDW, which surveyed 800 tech decision makers. Of these, 49 percent cited security features as the benefit of most interest to their organisation. Other perceived benefits of Windows Server 2008, according to the survey, included faster setup and configuration (cited by 41 percent of the respondents), easier administration (40 percent) and the operating system's new integrated virtualisation (35 percent).
"Security ranked No. 1, both here and in the three surveys we did on Windows Vista," said David Cottingham, CDW's director of product and product management. "It's [because] Microsoft's been effective in getting its message across," he said, referring to the security drum that the developer has pounded for both Windows Vista and Server 2008. "They spent a lot of time talking about security.
"But the [poll results] also match nicely with the problem users are having," Cottingham said. "So it's a receptive audience."
Users considering Windows Server 2008 are also reacting to what they have seen in pre-release builds of the operating system on the security front, said Cottingham.
While security gets a positive response from potential users, possible bugs are their biggest worry. Nearly half - 48 percent - of those polled cited the catch-all "bugs" as a concern; the only other response that came close was application compatibility, which 41 percent of the respondents cited.
"Bugs," by CDW's definition, include everything from possible security vulnerabilities to performance and reliability problems, said Cottingham, who downplayed the results to some extent. "That's a natural concern for a new operating system."
Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a research firm that specialises in tracking Microsoft's moves, had a different take on Windows Server 2008's pitch. "The concern with bugs isn't a security concern, but a reliability and performance concern." It's not possible to know now what reliability and performance issues might develop with Server 2008; the verdict there, said Cherry, won't be in until after the final code is deployed by companies and other organisations.
"But I'm not so sure that these worries are such an issue with Server, at least compared to Vista," he said. "Server doesn't have as many changes, and the changes that were made, I think, are really good. It's not like Vista, where Microsoft messed with stuff they should have just left alone. Server has always been on a much more stable track than the client OSs.
"Fundamentally, Server is building on a better base of reliability and performance in the first place," he said.
Like the IT professionals polled by CDW, Cherry sees security as a big benefit of the new operating system. At the top of his list: Server Core, a scaled-back installation option that omits the Windows Explorer shell, reduces the number of services running on the server and doesn't include Internet Explorer, a noted exploit magnet.
"[Server Core] increases the security of Windows Server 2008, because if you're just running components, that has to be more secure. If it requires less patching, because some services aren't running, that has to be helping security."
Saying he is "bullish" on Windows Server 2008," Cherry urged users to work with the software sooner rather than later. "There's value there, and I don't think you'll want to wait to deploy. You should gain experience with Server Core now."