Windows Server 2008 release pushed back again

Microsoft Wednesday again delayed the release of Windows Server 2008, saying development of the software could take as long as another three months beyond its previously planned December release.

The new plan calls for the server to be released to manufacturing (RTM) between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2008. RTM means the software’s development is complete and the bits are ready to be pressed onto distribution media.

The delay, which is being blamed on the need for more testing, means the server possibly won’t be ready for the “launch event” in Los Angeles on Feb. 27 that Microsoft is hyping. The event features Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Ironically, the server delay may mean Microsoft has nothing to launch that day. SQL Server 2008 is slated to ship between April 1 and June 30, 2008, and Visual Studio 2008 is targeted for release at the end of 2007. Microsoft said it will not cancel the event, which includes customers and partners.

“My conversation with the development team is that they are very aggressive about RTM prior to the launch event. We really want to do that,” says Helene Love Snell, a group product manager in the Windows Server team. “But we are not shipping until it is ready,” she adds

Observers signal that perhaps Microsoft is taking the pragmatic path on a piece of software that first was put into beta in 2005 and has suffered numerous delays and feature dumps. “The testing matrix is just so huge you can’t cut pieces out of it,” says Michael Cherry, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. “I think they are just concerned about doing the right thing.”

Others said the delay probably won’t amount to a big deal for corporations, but it could help with future client and server rollouts down the road. “There is some alignment going on here and that is why Windows Vista SP1 is coming out in the same time frame as Windows Server 2008. They are surely aligning those technologies,” says Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC Along with the server delay announcement on Wednesday, Microsoft announced that Vista SP1 would ship in early 2008.

But Gillen also wonders how the server delay will affect products built on Windows Server 2008, namely virtualization technology; the Centro server bundle for midsize businesses; and Cougar, the code name for the next version of Small Business Server.

Microsoft’s Snell says the Windows Server 2008 slip will affect the ship dates of the Windows Server Virtualization (WSV) add-on for Windows Server 2008, but not the framework of its release. She says the plan is still to have a WSV beta available at the RTM of Windows Server 2008 and to ship the virtualization software within 180 days of that milestone. “The end dates may have changed, but the parameters have not changed,” she says.

Snell also says Microsoft will ship a release candidate of Windows Server 2008 in the next few weeks and possibly might have a second release candidate by the end of the year. A release candidate signals the final round of beta testing before development is completed.

Snell says Microsoft has not considered delaying the release of Windows Server 2008 until WSV is complete in the summer time frame. Originally the two products were one. “Virtualization is a hot topic, but penetration of the technology is about five per cent so think of all the customers who are not doing it, and that is a huge market opportunity,” she says. “We wrestle with those decisions, but we need to get the product out to everyone. We need to service all our customers and do the right thing.”

While the server delay probably won’t have a big impact on corporate rollouts, Microsoft says it also will not affect the planned year-end beta release of products based on the server, namely Centro and Cougar.

Windows Server 2008 focuses on three primary areas: management, including Server Core; security, such as BitLocker drive encryption and read-only domain controllers; and performance, including a redesigned TCP/IP stack.

The server also represents the gateway into the world of 64-bit-only server operating systems from Microsoft. The Release 2 version of Windows Server 2008 slated to ship in 2009 won’t include a 32-bit version.

In addition, the server is the other shoe that will drop on capabilities intertwined with Vista, such as Network Access Protection and new Terminal Services features.

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