Microsoft is likely to see strong growth in coming quarters, at least with regard to its Windows Server franchise, thanks to a combination of a strengthening economy and industrywide gravitation toward servers running on x86 multicore processors.
At least, that's the assertion of Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, who wrote in a July 20 research note that both Linux and Windows could benefit from an industry trend toward x86 multicore chips-a trend he says is much in evidence, based on a recent survey by analytics company Tech Target.
That survey suggested that, along with the expansion in enterprise IT budgets and increased demand for capacity, the market for server platforms has increased.
"Windows growth as a server platform is exploding," Clabby wrote. "While Linux is second largest, its growth is flat over last year. Windows Server deployment is huge, [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] is holding steady with 40 [percent] adoption, Novell SUSE tanked and Oracle's Linux offering gained ground."
Meanwhile, Clabby added, sales of HP's Itanium offerings have declined sharply, while reports abound of companies such as IBM gaining share in x86 systems in the first quarter of 2010.
"If the market is indeed gravitating toward x86 multicores, then it must be noted that two operating environments dominate the x86 landscape: Windows and Linux," he wrote. "The way I see it, Microsoft has a strong presence around the world-and as IT buyers gravitate toward x86 multicores, it looks like they're going to overwhelmingly choose Windows-at least in the short term."
For that reason, Windows Server appears strongly positioned for continued growth.
Whether or not that prediction eventually comes true, Microsoft has been aggressively pushing its server products, particularly Windows Server 2008 R2, to business customers.
In addition to focusing on the enterprise, Microsoft has also been tailoring its server offerings for small and midsize businesses. In March, the company announced that it would discontinue future development of Windows Essential Business Server, targeted to midsize businesses, after it discovered that customers were instead choosing products such as Windows Server 2008 R2 that addressed their cloud-based management and virtualization needs.
Microsoft employees working on Windows Essential Business Server will apparently be shifted to projects within the Microsoft Server and Cloud division. In a series of events and speeches over the past few months, Microsoft has made it clear that the cloud has become its central strategic focus; in a July 12 keynote at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference, in Washington, CEO Steve Ballmer encouraged companies to entrust their IT infrastructure to Microsoft's cloud.
Ballmer said, "When customers put their data in our system, when they entrust more and more of their data and operations to us, there's the need to do a better job on reliability, security, privacy."
But the Tech Target survey, as quoted by Clabby, suggests that many businesses are still reluctant to embrace the cloud: About 69 percent of respondents were apparently "not considering" cloud computing, 10 percent said they planned to implement private clouds within the next 12 months and 6 percent indicated that they plan to implement public clouds.
About 7 percent of Tech Target respondents had implemented a private cloud, 5 percent had installed both private and public clouds, and 3 percent had implemented public clouds.