Microsoft unveils new OS, begins tour

With beta users seemingly nodding agreement, Microsoft Canada Co. on April 24 proclaimed that its newly released Windows Server 2003 operating system within its trustworthy computing environment will offer server consolidation, improved performance, reduced management costs and increased productivity.

The world-wide launch marked the start of a cross-Canada tour for what Microsoft describes as its best-performing, highest-quality Windows server operating system to date. The company also launched Visual Studio .NET 2003 development system – for rapidly building, deploying and managing a range of applications for the desktop, Web and mobile devices – and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit). The latter supports memory-intensive and high performance applications running on 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003.

Promising to relieve what Canadian president Frank Clegg called “IT fatigue”, the new operating system is said to reduce costs and improve performance by connecting information, people, systems and devices.

Mike Hubbert, executive vice-president and COO of Toronto-based NexInnovations Inc., was among those endorsing Microsoft’s claims. A provider of technology consulting, infrastructure and deployment support and considered the largest value added reseller in Canada, reselling both hardware and software, NexInnovations had been bringing the Windows Server 2003 operating system to customers through Microsoft’s early adopter program.

“Windows Server 2003 offers an immense opportunity to consolidate servers and storage,” he said.

That in itself may have won over Microsoft NT user Intrawest Corporation. Headquartered in Vancouver, Intrawest is the world’s leading developer and operator of village-centered resorts. It owns or controls 11 resorts in North America and has village developments in six resort locations in North America and Europe. With both resorts and IT departments scattered across North America and Europe, Intrawest was running Windows NT and between 6,000 to 15,000 desktops, depending on the time of year. At the time of the announcement, Intrawest had yet to finish moving from Windows NT to Windows Server 2003, but they expect that doing so will reduce their 153 security/domain servers to 30. Similarly, Exchange Server 2003, the next generation in Microsoft’s Exchange messaging and collaboration server line, is expected to enable Intrawest to put services ‘online and inline’ for better, faster customer service.

John Kvasnic, CEO and chief architect of Navantis, reported first year ROI’s of 25 – 122 per cent on the three pilot projects deploying Windows Server 2003 for three clients of the Toronto-based professional services firm. “There were incremental and dramatic improvements across the board,” he said, noting Windows Server 2003 was “poured directly from NT.”

He praised “smart features” like self-healing to ensure reliability and lower maintenance costs, and noted many collaborative features were built in.

He said that for their manufacturing clients, “dealing with the smallest customer is the highest pain point.” He said Microsoft’s Web services wraparound enables companies to move information quickly to attend to customers’ needs.

Val Swift, IT manager for Mold-Masters Limited in Georgetown, Ont., reported that using the new Visual Studio .NET 2003 development system has enhanced their customer service. Mold-Masters claims to be the world’s leading manufacturer of hot runner solutions for injection molding. Swift explained that they offer an online configurator that customers can use to configure the hot runner system to their purposes. She said that when they migrated to the new development system, the ease with which they could make enhancements to the configurator saved them time and money. Further, she reported “the actual application is performing faster and we weren’t even looking for that.”

Microsoft said it has distributed about one million beta copies of Windows Server 2003. The company revealed that through its worldwide rapid adoption program about 155 customers have deployed 9,493 servers running the operating system.

Watch for more on these and other customer experiences in upcoming issues of IT Focus.

Windows Server 2003 comes in Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter and Web editions. The 11-city tour includes Quebec City, Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Regina and Calgary from May 12 to June 25. See details at

In other Microsoft news, last March the company announced Microsoft Business Portal for companies to deliver Web-browser access to business applications to employees and customers alike. Built on the Microsoft’s .Net architecture, the product integrates with both Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains and Microsoft Business Solutions Solomon business applications. Microsoft Business Portal also can be extended to deliver access to external data sources and Web-delivered applications to create a true single-source site for business information and processes.

Earlier in April, Microsoft announced it is dropping the name .Net Enterprise Servers and putting the products under the same umbrella as Windows Server 2003 – the Windows Server Family. Included are products such as BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Content Management Server, SQL Server data management software, Exchange Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Project Server, its management and security server software and its upcoming Real-Time Communications Server.