Microsoft rebrands server software portfolio

One week before its long-awaited launch of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Corp. said it is rolling out a new umbrella brand for its array of server software.

Windows Server System is the portfolio name that will now encompass more than a dozen Microsoft server software products. Windows Server 2003 will be the foundation for the Windows Server System line, with all of Microsoft’s business server software becoming part of the brand.

The line includes Microsoft’s e-business server products such as BizTalk Server, Commerce Server and Content Management Server; its SQL Server data management software; its Exchange Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Project Server and forthcoming Real-Time Communications Server; and its management and security server software.

Microsoft previously tied together most of those products under the rubric “.Net Enterprise Servers.”

That name, which was never an “official” brand in the way that Windows Server System will be, is being retired, said Barry Goffe, Microsoft’s Server Platform Division group product manager.

“This is the first time we’ve had a brand that brings together our entire portfolio of server products with Windows Server,” he said.

The informal .Net Enterprise Servers grouping generally did not include Windows Server, and several other products, such as Microsoft’s Project Server and SharePoint Portal Server, were omitted, he said.

On its Web site, however, Microsoft lists all three of those products in the .Net Enterprise Servers section.

The new Windows Server System brand change is intended to send two messages to customers, Goffe said. First, that Windows Server 2003 is at the heart of the company’s server strategy. Second, that Microsoft’s server products are being designed around a common architecture, to ensure their interoperability.

“We want to send a clear brand message: That we’re committed to lowering cost and complexity in IT through a complete, integrated and interoperable infrastructure,” Goffe said.

The noteworthy aspect of the branding change is its signal that Microsoft is, like many other IT vendors, highlighting for customers the integration of its offerings, said Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ted Schadler, in Cambridge, Mass.

“This announcement really is about where Microsoft thinks the decision-making battle is here. It’s not about best-of-breed, it’s about the whole (technology) stack,” he said. “To me, that’s the significant subtext of this announcement.”

Microsoft has been quietly removing .Net from a number of its product names, while continuing to emphasize the technology’s key behind-the-scenes role as a unifying architecture underlying all of Microsoft’s software development.

That unification will pay off for customers, as Microsoft works to make its Visual Studio .Net software a one-stop development environment, Schadler said.

“Over the next 18 months, you’ll be able to program every Microsoft server with Visual Studio .Net,” he said. “On a single workspace you’ll be able to have a view of all the server assets and build a complete programming model.”

The Windows Server System brand name will kick off on April 24, in conjunction with Windows Server 2003’s launch. The brand will be incorporated into Microsoft’s Web site and its marketing communications, the company said.

Microsoft said it will elaborate on its Windows Server System development plans at its upcoming TechEd 2003 conference in June, in Dallas.