TECH ED: IT still relevant

DALLAS – Despite experiencing a ‘crisis of complexity,’ IT is still viable, still relevant, and still necessary for a competitive advantage, according to one Microsoft Corp. exec earlier this week.

Paul Flessner, Windows Server senior vice-president at Microsoft, kicked off the annual TechEd developer conference by unveiling the Redmond, Wash.-based firm’s product roadmap for the next few years.

Between 2003 and 2004, tentative release dates were set for SharePoint Portal erver, Project Server and Microsoft Office 2003. The Longhorn desktop OS and Visual Studio Orcas are slated for a 2005 release, with a new edition of Exchange Server (code-named Kodiak) due in 2006.

Speaking to an estimated 9,000 attendees, Flessner admitted that Microsoft has been a part of the IT complexity problem, estimating that 70 per cent of the enterprise IT budget is devoted to the cost of actual operations.

“We’re not perfect and there’s still more work to do,” Flessner said.

Microsoft will invest more than US$2 billion towards IT developer “community-based” efforts, Flessner continued, all of which are designed to “amplify the strategic impact of IT.”

IT’s potential is unlimited, Flessner added.

Among the announcements:

– Microsoft will extend its real-time enterprise business intelligence (BI) platform by shipping Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services by the end of this year, with a public beta available this fall. The release of the code-named ‘Yukon’ SQL Server has been pushed to the second half of 2004.

– The first phase of the touted ‘Jupiter’ e-business platform is now available through the beta of BizTalk Server 2004. Microsoft said the single sign-on, human-based workflow and Web services supported technology enables end users to create e-business solutions within a more unified and standards-based environment.

– Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of messaging server Exchange Server 2003 is now available. The Standard edition can now operate outside an enterprise firewall as a dedicated front-end mail server. Both versions integrate with Active Directory and the improved security feature of Windows Server 2003, including public key infrastructure (PKI).

Flessner implored developers to get on-board the Web services train, touting the Windows Server 2003 product as a step towards a more standards-based IT application environment.

“We understand that everything will not run on Windows…(but) Web services is what we need to do as an industry.”

TechEd runs until Friday.