This week, I'd like to cover several topics that have come to light in recent days, rather than focus on a particular subject. So let's jump right in ...
Virtual Server 2005 to Ship in Early October
I discussed Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 in the June 15, 2004, issue of Windows IT Pro UPDATE (see "Microsoft Preps Virtual Server 2005 for Late 2004 Release" at http://www.windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/42993/42993.html ), and although little has changed from a functional perspective, Microsoft has completed product development and announced availability and pricing information. Virtual Server 2005 will come in two versions: a standard edition and an enterprise edition. Virtual Server 2005 Standard Edition will support as many as four processors and will cost $499 in the United States. Virtual Server 2005 Enterprise Edition will support as many as 32 processors and cost $999. Both product versions will ship within 30 days, according to Microsoft, and will be available through both retail and volume licensing. Licensing is per server, not per processor.
Next week, I'll be talking with VMware again, and I suspect the company will have a lot to say about its product's various advantages over Virtual Server 2005, which Microsoft acquired as part of Connectix's assets in early 2003. These advantages are, in many cases, quite real: VMware now has a mature server product line that it's been working on for years, and Virtual Server 2005 is Microsoft's first virtualization effort on the server. However, from my time working with Virtual Server 2005, I can say that it does address some key usage scenarios fairly well and includes quality management and deployment tools. Overall, my feeling is that Virtual Server 2005 is most well adapted to Windows NT 4.0 consolidation scenarios for Microsoft-specific shops, but I'll compare VMware and Virtual Server more closely in the near future.
Windows XP SP2 War Stories
Corporate adoption of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) is apparently proceeding slowly, largely because of fears about application incompatibility. These concerns are probably real, but I still believe that the security benefits of SP2 will outweigh any compatibility problems for most companies. That said, you can start testing your custom applications against SP2 using information in Microsoft's Application Compatibility Testing and Mitigation Guide for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (see the first URL below). A beta version of an SP2-compatible Application Compatibility Toolkit 4.0 is due this fall (see the second URL below).
That said, I'm interested in hearing about your SP2 deployment and testing SP2 experiences. And if you're not rolling out SP2 immediately, please drop me a note at [email protected] and let me know why.
Intel Talks Up Server Platform Roadmap
Last week, Intel hosted its annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, and this year's show, like previous renditions, was heavy on forthcoming product announcements and demonstrations. Although the company's move to multiple processor cores in its microprocessors is somewhat controversial--some charge that Intel has taken this route because of problems scaling its existing processors to higher clock speeds--one piece of useful information that came out of the show is the company's views on its server platforms of the future.
While admitting that the 64-bit Itanium has been somewhat disappointing from a sales perspective, Intel still believes that the Itanium has legs and will ultimately provide better performance than comparable 64-bit Xeon chips. "We expect Itanium ... in time to deliver twice the performance of Xeon at the same platform cost," said Intel CEO Craig Barrett. To that end, the company is pushing ahead with a common chipset platform for the Xeon and Itanium, which will eventually let customers upgrade by simply swapping out Xeon CPUs in a server and replacing them with Itanium CPUs. Although that possibility sounds a bit unrealistic today, Itanium fans can take heart in the fact that Intel is now pricing the chip much more competitively with comparable Xeon chips. And multicore versions of the Xeon (which is x64 compatible) and the Itanium should appear simultaneously with the common chipset, Intel says.
However, the common Xeon/Itanium platform is a few years away. Before then, we'll see new versions of the Itanium 2 that feature a whopping 9MB of cache and, eventually, a version based on smaller 64 nm process technology.
Collaboration: Everyone is Talking About It. Is Anyone Doing It?
One of the perceived benefits of the paperless office is that so-called knowledge workers will be able to seamlessly share information electronically and collaborate, online and in real time, with coworkers on live documents. Every time I hear the word "collaboration," I think back to a hackneyed Microsoft Office demo I saw a few years back in which some intrepid office worker used every available Office application to perform a day's worth of work, and I remember laughing at the sheer silliness of it. Collaboration seems similar to me: a great and even lofty ideal, but one that few workers actually take advantage of.
Microsoft's primary collaboration platform, of course, is Microsoft Office, and the Office-based server products that, ahem, enable collaboration are in the Microsoft SharePoint product family. And last week, Microsoft released service packs for both Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2003 (see the third and fourth URLs below). So my question is this: Is anyone using these products? And if so, what are they using them for? Please drop me a note at [email protected] and let me know. Resources Application Compatibility Testing and Mitigation Guide for Windows XP Service Pack 2
Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit 4.0 (Beta coming Fall 2004)
Windows SharePoint Services Service Pack 1
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Service Pack 1