Microsoft plans to update Windows Server products by using a roadmap that will include major Windows Server releases every 4 years, interspersed with minor releases every 2 years. The plan--which Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Server Division, revealed during a meeting I had with him earlier this week--extends from this year through at least 2008.
"We're going to continue a theme over the next few years of trying to innovate along three major initiatives--the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), the Trustworthy Computing initiative, and Microsoft .NET--all to drive a set of consistent benefits for users," Muglia said. He noted that Microsoft hopes that this revelation will make the company's plans more predictable for corporate customers, who often need to plan upgrades years in advance. "We've moved away from a monolithic release cycle," he said.
Microsoft's Windows business is divided into three primary groups that focus on various Windows products, including the Windows client, Windows Server, and Windows core technologies. Each minor Windows Server update--due 2 years after each major release--will use the same underlying core, or kernel, that the previous major release used. But the major releases could potentially break compatibility, depending on the products' requirements and the number of necessary changes.
Looking at the calendar going forward, the Windows Server release cycle breaks down as follows. This year, Microsoft will ship Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows 2003 for 64-Bit Extended Systems, as well as various feature packs, such as Windows Update Services (WUS). Those updates are due in late 2004. In 2005, Microsoft will ship Windows Server Longhorn Beta 1 and Windows 2003 Release 2 (R2), although the final product names have yet to be determined. Windows 2003 R2 is due in mid-2005, other sources at the company have told me.
In 2006, Microsoft will ship Windows Server Longhorn Beta 2 and Windows 2003 SP2, which will update both the original Windows 2003 release and Windows 2003 R2, Muglia said. Microsoft will ship Windows Server Longhorn in 2007--about 6 to 9 months after the Longhorn client ships. In 2009, the company will issue a Windows Server Longhorn R2 update, as well as a Windows Server Longhorn service pack.
An examination of these products and their timing clearly indicates that Microsoft's customers can expect continual, obvious improvements to the server products. Windows 2003 SP1 will include many of the low-level Springboard security technologies Microsoft first shipped in Windows XP SP2, as well as a new Security Configuration Wizard for Windows 2003 that places a roles-based UI on top of the Security Configuration Editor (SCE) that shipped in earlier Windows Server releases. Windows 2003 SP1 will also feature a 10 percent performance improvement over the original Windows 2003 release and will include VPN client-inspection capabilities and boot-time network protection during clean installs.
The Windows 2003 for 64-Bit Extended Systems release, which is targeted at AMD64 (AMD Opteron) and Intel x86 (Intel Xeon EMT64T) 64-bit platforms, will be based on Windows 2003 SP1 and will run most existing 32-bit applications and services, with dramatic performance improvements over current 32-bit servers. Database performance will be improved by as much as 17 percent on the new system when compared with comparable 32-bit systems. Microsoft is also seeing larger improvements in other areas, such as file sharing, which has improved 111 percent, and Active Directory (AD) throughput, which has improved more than 100 percent. I'll post specific information about these improvements to the SuperSite for Windows .
Windows 2003 R2 will also be based on Windows 2003 SP1 and will include the Trustbridge Federated Security and Identity feature that Microsoft has long been touting. The feature lets enterprises share directory information with partners and customers across Active Directory (AD) forests. R2 will also feature Server Message Block (SMB) and terminal-services access over HTTPS, integrated Microsoft Windows Rights Management Services (RMS), improved support for remote branch-office management, and other new features. Windows 2003 R2 will be a new, for-purchase product but Software Assurance (SA) customers will get the product as part of their software licenses, Muglia said.
Windows Server Longhorn will include major new versions of ASP.NET and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), as well as the Indigo Web services infrastructure. A new roles-based deployment methodology will reduce maintenance costs and the overall Windows Server "attack surface," making the server more secure. Windows Server Longhorn will include the Monad scripting and command-line environment, as well as other new features.
I'll post more information about each of these products and the overall Windows Server roadmap on the SuperSite for Windows . Stay tuned!