IT Short Takes

As I write this, Microsoft is getting ready to unleash its latest Worldwide Partner Conference, so we'll have a lot to say about that next week. In the meantime, I'd like to provide some "Short Takes"-style blurbs about other important IT news events that are happening this week.

More OBA Action
In last week's UPDATE commentary "Got OBAs?" I noted that Microsoft will unveil a new Web-based reference for Office Business Applications (OBAs) during its Partner Conference. If you're interested in OBAs, point your browser to http://www.OBACentral.com. The site should be live by the time you read this.

VMware Takes it Up a Notch
VMware this week announced the release VMware Lab Manager 2.5, the latest version of its centralized management solution for virtualized environment lifecycle automation. Lab Manager 2.5 adds several important features, such as iSCSI and NAS support, but to me, the big deal with this suite is that it's built around managing virtual machine (VM) environments--collections of related VMs--and not individual VMs. This is yet another area in which VMware's solutions continue to outpace what Microsoft is trying to deliver. And with the virtualization role in Windows Server 2008 scaled back to meet deadlines, it looks like VMware will retain its technical lead for quite a while longer. Intel must think so: The company just invested more than $200 million in the company.

Google Buys Postini
Google this week spent $625 million purchasing Postini, a company that focuses largely on communications security and compliance solutions. Why is this important? Google will use Postini technology to boost the security of its Google Apps services, which provides hosted email and other services. Increasingly, companies of all sizes are turning to turnkey solutions from Google and other companies when it comes to crucial Internet infrastructure services. Hey, it makes sense: More and more of these services are becoming commodities every day. Speaking of which, Google says that more than 1000 businesses sign up for Google Apps every day. Take that, Exchange.

Singing the SA Blues
According to a survey by Forrester Research, Microsoft's Software Assurance (SA) scheme isn't saving businesses as much money as hoped. Microsoft established SA as a subscription-oriented service for businesses and provides ongoing product updates to customers as long as the licenses are up-to-date. Unfortunately, Microsoft's inconsistent release schedules, especially on the client side, have caused SA costs to rise. With 86 percent of SA customers facing renewals this year, it might be time to shop around or hope that Microsoft revises SA yet again to meet changing needs.

Vista SP1 Earlier than Expected?
I can't confirm this yet, but rumors are floating around that Microsoft might ship Vista SP1 earlier than expected, by late 2007. If this is true, businesses that have been using the classic SP1 deployment excuse might suddenly have a lot less wiggle room. Regardless, I'm going to go against the grain and suggest that businesses should actually wait for SP2 in this case: Microsoft has hardly been transparent when it comes to SP1's feature set, and what you should be looking for is clear guidance about what to expect well in advance. Because that's not happening, simply vote with your pocketbooks and ignore Vista until Microsoft provides more information about future updates. This situation is ridiculous, frankly, and Microsoft needs to begin addressing your questions as well as your needs.

Windows Server 2008: Coming in 2008
And finally, a late arrival: Microsoft announced this morning that it will launch Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008 on February 27, 2008. (What this means to Vista SP1's release is, of course, still unclear.)

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