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Recognizing Microsoft’s Fading Generation of Products

Ushering in an era of “logicalization”

Executive Summary:

Karen acknowledges Microsoft Windows Server 2008, System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2007, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 for receiving Editors’ Best awards and examines Microsoft’s perspective on virtualization as it relates to a new generation of Web-integrated IT.

Microsoft’s new product releases in the past year have been numerous and significant. In many ways these products are revolutionizing IT. But even as I acknowledge the Microsoft products receiving our Editors’ Best award this year, I can’t shake the feeling that these releases are approaching the last hurrah of a fading generation of technology. So first, let me congratulate this year’s winners. Then let’s consider the oncoming generation and where it’s taking Microsoft and IT.

Windows Server 2008 brought virtualization into the IT mainstream, created new competitive possibilities with Server Core, and simplified deployment with the concept of server roles. The product’s technical achievements, its grounding in customer feedback, plus its timely and drama-free release earn this year’s gold award for Server 2008.

Asked to comment on the award, Bill Laing (general manager, Windows Server Division) said, “Windows Server 2008 is Microsoft’s most customer-focused server release to date; this is evident in how the server is configured and managed by role through the Windows Server Manager utility. Windows Server 2008, built with Web and virtualization technologies, enables you to increase the reliability and flexibility of your server infrastructure.”

Silver and Bronze
The silver award for Microsoft products goes to System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2007. Native backup and restore capability was never a strength of Microsoft products until DPM arrived a few years back. But DPM’s initial versions protected only the OS. With DPM 2007, Microsoft extended disk-to-disk-to-tape backup to products that were crying out for such a solution: Exchange Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007, and SQL Server. This award recognizes Microsoft for providing much-needed and eagerly awaited functionality.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008, with its support for Hyper-V and heterogeneous management of virtual and physical environments, has not yet been released. But SCVMM 2007 changed the competitive game in the virtualization arena by focusing Microsoft’s value proposition on managing a mixed physical and virtual environment “from a single pane.” The strategy behind SCVMM and the importance of management in a virtualized environment make SCVMM the bronze award winner this year.

The Next Generation
The 2008 product generation takes virtualization into the mainstream of Microsoft-based IT and is changing the way IT works. But the idea of virtualization is steadily expanding as a way of thinking beyond on-premise IT. Microsoft is now seeing virtualization as a broader concept that encompasses cloud computing, Web services, Software as a Service (SaaS), Software + Services (S+S), and Service- Oriented Architecture (SOA).

In this view, “virtualization” becomes “logicalization” of technology. As Bob Kelly (Microsoft vice president, Infrastructure Server Marketing) recently told me, “Virtualization is a way of making logical a bunch of physical stuff. The more that IT becomes logical, the much more quickly they’ll be able to respond to business needs. Logicalization is not just about compute or storage. It’s also in fact about applications—not just like Softricity style, but even SOA. Service orientation is really an isolation. Web services is just a virtualized service. It’s isolated. The more IT gets on this road to making their infrastructure, their applications, and their environment logical, the faster they’ll be able to consume this innovation and the more quickly they’ll be able to respond to business needs. There’s nothing like being able to stand up a new server environment with the press of a button because you have increased demand. That’s what logicalization of IT means.”

When Microsoft jumps on an idea, that idea spreads and grows wildly. So just as you’re getting used to the various possibilities for and layers of virtualization, Microsoft is taking the idea of virtualization much further. By distilling “virtualization” down to its essence as “isolation” of physical hardware, OSs, and applications, Microsoft created a paradigm for understanding that cloud-based approaches are also essentially about “isolation.”

This perspective on virtualization means that the 2008 wave of Microsoft products is opening the door for the new generation of Web-integrated IT. Early explorations of the idea of logicalization of IT include Microsoft Live Mesh and SQL Server Data Services. In the future, the industry might look back on Hyper-V and its approach to virtualization as quaint. But it just might also be seen as the granddaddy of an entirely different type of IT.

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