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Microsoft unveils Windows Server 2003

Microsoft last week launched the long-anticipated Windows Server 2003, an integrated server platform that CEO Steve Ballmer labeled "a significant piece of work, and the highest quality release of Windows Server ever." Speaking to a near-capacity crowd at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Ballmer called the latest version of his company's server software "a breakthrough in terms of security, manageability and the innovations it brings to software developers and information workers who need to collaborate."

The theme of the launch event was "doing more with less," which, Ballmer said, was an acknowledgment of the continuing budget pressures on enterprise IT, as well as something of a justification for coming out with new products in a tight economy.

Steve Ballmer

"This is absolutely the right time to be bringing new innovation to the marketplace," Ballmer said. "And that's a view that is shared by our customers. IT managers have to do more with less today, and that is one of the biggest challenges faced by Microsoft and its customers alike."

Windows Server 2003 is the first major product release from Microsoft since the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker publicly committed itself last year to improving the security of its software. Ballmer said Microsoft "got the message loud and clear from customers that security is the number one priority. Windows Server 2003 is secure by design, and we have invested $200 million in this. It is secure by default, with 60% less attack surface area by default compared to Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 3. There will also be less security issues going forward."

The Windows Server 2003 product family comprises five editions, including a standard, enterprise, data center and Web edition, as well as a small business edition due in the third quarter of this year. According to Ballmer, Microsoft worked with more than 100 joint development partners on the new server products. Microsoft issued about a million beta copies of the software, he noted, and there are currently more than 10,000 production deployments.

Katy Hunter, a Windows Server group product manager, joined Ballmer on stage at the event to demo some features of the new server software. One feature in particular, the system's ability to allow users to restore accidentally deleted files directly from their desktops, drew cheers and applause from the crowd.

Intel COO Paul Otellini also joined Ballmer to tout the chipmaker's expanding relationship with Microsoft, which now extends to the server market. Together, Intel and Microsoft are pursuing the elusive "server performance crown," he said.

At the same time, Otellini said, a 32-way, Itanium 2 NEC server -- the NEC Express5800/1320Xc -- running the next-generation Madison chip, had achieved the best non-clustered TPC-C benchmark in the world. He added that the Hewlett-Packard Superdome 64-processor server, running the Madison Itanium 2 with Windows Server 2003 and SQWL Server, had achieved a TPC-C rating of 558,000.

"There is no machine in the world that can do more database transactions than this machine running Windows," Microsoft's Ballmer declared. "This is the absolute fastest machine running transactions on the planet."

The event actually marked the official launch of a trio of products that included the Windows Server 2003 family, a new version of the Visual Studio .NET IDE and a 64-bit edition of SQL Server 2000. The company also re-branded this "integrated server infrastructure" under the name Windows Server System. Ballmer called the re-branded products the "cornerstone" of his company's enterprise strategy.

An estimated 86,000 Microsoft partners have already been trained on the new server platform as of the launch date, Ballmer said. He also claimed that 220 applications are currently ready to run on the new server platform today, with another 2,500 expected over the next 180 days. Microsoft plans to release Windows Small Business Server 2003 in a few months, which will simplify the configuration and connection of remote users and make accessing work computers from home over the Web easier to configure and manage, he said.

"Windows Server 2003 is part of a connected group of Microsoft products that span the IT infrastructure, application infrastructure and information worker infrastructure," Ballmer said. "Microsoft is on a rock-solid foundation of reliability, security and manageability, and we will continue to provide better products and tools with greater security."

Observers noted Ballmer himself was the very image of the launch event's theme "doing more with less." The once burly CEO has shed significant weight (no one at the launch event seemed to know how much). Ballmer's new svelte physique was apparent as he strode the stage in a tailored business suit. According to one Microsoft insider, Ballmer's weight loss has inspired a number of chubby Microsofties to trim the fat.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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