Server 2003: slow adoption expected

Microsoft Corp. may face an uphill struggle to bring in high adoption rates for its newly launched Windows Server 2003, according to one analyst. But decreased NT support and increased stability and functionality may help the company in this fight.

Michael Cherry, lead operating systems analyst for Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, is not anticipating a rapid rate of adoption. Instead, Cherry predicted a steady rate, but nothing like the huge spikes that have occurred in the immediate wake of Microsoft’s previous releases.

To combat this, Microsoft is keeping the price point low, Cherry said. He also cited the release of a Web edition of the server, priced attractively for companies that only need to roll out a Web site or sites for Web services, as part of Microsoft’s strategy to overcome the shadow of recent Windows 2000 implementations.

Jim Hebert, general manager of Windows enterprise servers at Microsoft, said the company is well aware that IT spending is flat and probably will remain so in 2004. So for now Microsoft will focus on trying to help customers understand the benefits they might see from an upgrade, he said.

Cherry noted that this should be a very stable release. “I compare it to when XP came out in the client version. People said, ‘This is the most stable version of Windows ever.’ And I think that Windows Server 2003 will be the same thing for servers.”

The server comes in four editions: enterprise, standard, Web and data centre.

One reason to upgrade will be the decreased support for Windows NT 4.0. But Cherry said NT 4.0 has become a very strong release, and as long as people aren’t looking for the new functionality of Windows Server 2003, they could get along on NT just fine.

Rowena Liang, CEO of Inventure Solutions, the IT arm of VanCity Credit Union in Vancouver, said after running on NT servers for a few years, her group started to plan its upgrade path. The timing worked out for VanCity to go with Windows Server 2003 as part of the early adoption program.

“We were able to take NT servers that were getting old – way past their life cycle – and upgrade them,” she said, adding the upgrade need was becoming more clear as third-party support and applications for NT were getting harder to find.

Liang said using Server 2003’s clustering capability, VanCity was able to reduce 40 file and print servers to three, giving an obvious return on investment from the start. She added that more robust seeming security also drove early implementation for Canada’s largest credit union.

Matthew Dunn, senior vice-president and CIO with Vancouver’s IntraWest Corp., a developer and operator of vacation resorts, said his company knew it had to upgrade as a result of acquisitions. “There was a real mixed bag of technology deployed across North America, and most of that tended to be Microsoft-centric.”

The company has more than 400 Windows and NT servers. Dunn said when they assessed their directory picture, it wasn’t pretty. IntraWest knew it wanted to implement Active Directory, but its wanted to skip the Windows 2000 generation. Microsoft signed them up for the early adopter program.

Dunn is excited by some of the new functionality that is being offered to his group as a result of the upgrade, which will be completed for all resorts by the fall of 2003. “We’re now able to take performance monitoring stats and spool them off into a relational SQL…store. That’s little, but it’s huge.”

He said there is more awareness of operational necessities and frameworks in this release. “The ability to implement the Microsoft operations framework and have the OS support it – good thing.”

He is also eagerly awaiting the Group Policy management tools that had not shipped as of press time.