The Microsoft Release Tsunami

Although the economy and the IT industry are still struggling with the recession, the down economy hasn’t put a damper on Microsoft—they’re preparing a flood of new releases in the second half (H2) of 2009, the first half (H1) of 2010, and beyond. The major product releases that synched up to release throughout the upcoming months include:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2—2009 H2
  • Windows 7—2009 H2
  • Exchange 2010—2009 H2
  • SQL Server 2008 R2—2010 H1
  • Office 2010—2010 H1
  • Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4.0—2010
Will IT Be Ready?

This is an ambitious release schedule by anyone’s standard. Microsoft is taking great pains to ensure that its major releases ship close together to align the technologies. However, the real question seems to be “Will IT be ready to adopt a slew of new releases?”

Windows Server and Windows 7

Although there may be questions about readiness for some of the upcoming releases, there can be no question about Windows Server 2008 R2. With the advent of the R2 version of Hyper-V and Live Migration, Windows Server 2008 R2 is a must-have for companies using Hyper-V. Throw in PowerShell 2.0, the Integrated Scripting Environment, and the new Active Directory Management Center (with AD undo!) and this is an essential upgrade even in a down economy.

The Windows 7 story isn’t so clear cut. Windows 7 is the best desktop that Microsoft has ever produced. Even so, it’s still not very compatible with the older hardware that’s currently running all those XP systems. Moving to Windows 7 is an expensive proposition. Will the “best ever” be enough to supplant XP’s “good enough”? It’s too close to call for the short term, but sooner or later business will have to upgrade as the lifecycle for current hardware comes to an end and new machines are brought into the business.

SQL Server and Exchange

SQL Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010 also face formidable competition from their prior versions. SQL Server 2008 R2 is really a solution for customers looking for the business intelligence (BI)-specific features it offers. If you’re not interested in them, then SQL Server 2008 is the correct upgrade path. While I’m a big SQL Server supporter, R2 may be a release that most businesses pass over. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never been a fan of the R2 release schedule anyway. I dislike frequent updates to core infrastructure products like SQL Server. Updating your core servers is difficult and it’s risky; things can go wrong no matter how well you plan. Plus, R2 releases add to feature confusion, and they make it more difficult to standardize on a given version.)

Exchange 2010 is a major release. Exchange 2007 was hugely complex with its myriad server roles but also hugely popular. Exchange 2010 appears to offer many refinements over 2007, but will refinements be enough to sell the new server? In good economic times I think so, but these days money is tighter and the outlook (pardon the pun) is much more questionable.

Office and Visual Studio

Office 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 are also a mixed bag. Personally, I have doubts about Office because after more than two years I’ve just gotten used to Office 2007, and I’m just not ready for another version. I’m sure many businesses feel the same way. Recession or not, that makes Office 2010 a tough sell. Visual Studio 2010 also faces stiff competition from Visual Studio (VS) 2008. However, Microsoft developers are a loyal lot and companies will be looking for support for the Windows Vista/Windows 7 interface and improved parallelism. Some of my colleagues are also excited about its Azure project templates. While VS 2008 is great I think developers will readily move to VS2010.

See for Yourself

Of course the best way to know if a product is worth getting is to try it yourself. You can download trial version of several of these products today:

So how do you feel about the Microsoft product tsunami headed your way? Are you champing at the bit for new versions or are you still struggling to roll out the prior generation of the products? Drop me a line at [email protected].

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