Beyond Windows Server

Microsoft plots how to improve the platform over the long haul.

With Windows Server 2003 just a month out of the gates, Microsoft Corp. is already looking at ways to deliver add-on technologies and wrestling with the issue of how to price these technologies. "There is some deep thinking and strong consideration going on inside the server team about how to best stage future releases and what the core elements of our strategy should be," said Jay Jamison, director of product planning for the Windows Server division, in Redmond, Wash.

According to Jamison, one of the ways Microsoft intends to deliver some of that functionality is through an "out-of-band" mechanism, where new technologies and tools are delivered between major server releases.

Out-of-band technologies could range from tools and things such as the group policy management console to layered add-on services, such as the Real-Time Communications Server, he said.

Sources close to Microsoft said the company is expected to release several out-of-band upgrades to Windows Server 2003 this year, including an iSCSI initiator, Network Attached Storage 3.0, Small Business Server 2003, Windows Virtual Server and Windows Server 2003 for Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s processors. When asked about the list, Jamison said, it "sounds about right."

When it comes to large-enterprise customers, some are willing to pay for additional technology rather than have it built into the core operating system.

"We like the idea of being able to choose what functions we want to install on top of the operating system. In some ways, it would be less problematic than having all of this built into the core kernel," said Jeff ODell, vice president of architecture for health benefits provider Cigna Corp., in Bloomington, Conn. "But, on the other hand, if functionality is already built into the operating system, we can just turn it on if we want."