Microsoft has again delayed the release of Windows Server 2008 from December until some unspecified date during the first quarter of next year.
The delay, which is being blamed on the need for more testing, means the server possibly won't be ready for the "launch event" in Los Angeles on 27 February that Microsoft is hyping.
That event features Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Ironically, the server delay may mean Microsoft has nothing to launch that day. SQL Server 2008 is slated to ship between 1 April and 30 June, 2008, and Visual Studio 2008 is targeted for release at the end of 2007. Microsoft said it will not cancel the event.
"My conversation with the development team is that they are very aggressive about RTM prior to the launch event. We really want to do that," said Helene Love Snell, a group product manager in the Windows Server team. “But we are not shipping until it is ready.”
Observers signal that perhaps Microsoft is taking the pragmatic path on a piece of software that was first put into beta in 2005 and has suffered numerous delays and feature dumps. "The testing matrix is just so huge you can't cut pieces out of it," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. "I think they are just concerned about doing the right thing."
Others said the delay probably won't amount to a big deal for corporations, but it could help with future client and server rollouts. "There is some alignment going on here and that is why Windows Vista SP1 is coming out in the same time frame as Windows Server 2008. They are surely aligning those technologies," said Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC. Microsoft also said yesterday that Vista SP1 would ship in early 2008.
But Gillen also wondered how the server delay will affect products built on Windows Server 2008, namely virtualisation technology; the Centro server bundle for mid-size businesses; and Cougar, the code name for the next version of Small Business Server.
Microsoft's Snell said the Windows Server 2008 slip will affect the ship dates of the Windows Server Virtualisation (WSV) add-on for Windows Server 2008, but not the framework of its release. She said the plan is still to have a WSV beta available at the RTM of Windows Server 2008 and to ship the virtualisation software within 180 days of that milestone. "The end dates may have changed, but the parameters have not changed," she said.
Snell also said Microsoft will ship a release candidate of Windows Server 2008 in the next few weeks and might have a second release candidate by the end of the year. A release candidate signals the final round of beta testing before development is completed.
Snell said Microsoft has not considered delaying Windows Server 2008 until WSV is complete in the summer. Originally the two products were one. "Virtualisation is a hot topic, but penetration of the technology is about 5% so think of all the customers who are not doing it, and that is a huge market opportunity," she said. "We wrestle with those decisions, but we need to get the product out to everyone. We need to service all our customers and do the right thing."
While the server delay probably won't have a big impact on corporate rollouts, Microsoft said it also will not affect the planned year-end beta release of products based on the server, namely Centro and Cougar.
Windows Server 2008 focuses on three primary areas: management, including Server Core; security, such as BitLocker drive encryption and read-only domain controllers; and performance, including a redesigned TCP/IP stack.
The server also represents the gateway into the world of 64-bit-only server operating systems from Microsoft. The Release 2 version of Windows Server 2008 slated to ship in 2009 won't include a 32-bit version.
In addition, the server will include capabilities intertwined with Vista, such as Network Access Protection and new Terminal Services features.
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