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.”
Jamison said the majority of new functionality made available through the out-of-band process will be things that customers can download and use freely.
“In some cases, there will be new technologies made available through this process that may require an enterprise server to run or could require a Windows [Client Access License] or the like, but we have not made any final decisions on this,” Jamison said.
Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst for International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass., said Microsoft is trying to uncouple updates from the basic release of the platform itself. But the challenge was the business, licensing and pricing model under which these were released.
“That is not clear at this point. Will end users have any idea what the total cost of operation will be if every now and again Microsoft changes the prices on some functions?” Kusnetzky asked.
Dave Thompson, corporate vice president of the Windows Server Product Group at Microsoft, said out-of-band releases are effectively part of Windows Server. “Innovation does not have to wait for major releases,” Thompson said.
Jamison suggested that a Windows Server release in the “Longhorn” client time frame, expected to ship in early 2005, is not likely. He did say that “Blackcomb,” the major Windows release following Longhorn, could be expected in a time frame “roughly similar to how weve done it before [three years].”
Jamison said this release will extend the underlying security work in Windows Server 2003 and build on the work already done in .Net Framework and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration in Server 2003.
Latest Microsoft News:
For more on Microsoft, check out Microsoft Watch.