Windows Server 2003 Prepares for Grand Entrance

Microsoft’s long-delayed Windows Server 2003 will make its grand entrance in San Francisco Thursday, carrying with it the company’s hopes to become a player in the high-end supercomputers, clusters and mainframes markets, as well as enterprise storage.

Based on preliminary tests by customers and industry groups running beta versions of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft claims the new product is the best performing Windows server operating system to date when compared with previous versions. Additionally, it represents the largest software development project in the company’s history. It totals about 50 million lines of code — the work of more than 5,000 developers and 2,500 testers over a three year period.

Security is the primary reason for Windows Server 2003’s 16 to 18 month delay, according to Laura DiDio, analyst with The Yankee Group.

“They will ship no product that is not secure,” DiDio said, speaking to Microsoft’s commitment to its Trustworthy Computing Initiative, unveiled in January 2002 in an effort to secure the company’s code. “That is the main reason that they attributed to the 16 to 18 month delay in shipping Windows Server 2003.”

The company had originally slated Windows Server 2003, then known as Windows .NET Server, for release in 2001. But the Trustworthy Computing Initiative placed everything else on hold, as the company spent more than $200 million on a line-by-line audit of its code by more than 13,000 Windows Division employees.

“Windows Server 2003 is the highest quality Windows server operating system ever released. It was designed and built with security as the top priority,” Bill Veghte, vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Server Division, said when he announced the operating system’s release to manufacturing in March.

Todd Wanke, project manager for Windows Server, who was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day development of Windows Server 2003, added, “My job was to make sure that, day after day, everyone on the development and testing teams was working toward the same quality milestones. Quality was our primary concern. We weren’t afraid to let the product release date slip if that’s what we needed to do for quality.”

Gunning for the High End

Windows Server 2003 will support both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, scaling from a Web edition geared for Web serving to a Datacenter Edition for high-end servers which supports up to 32-way SMP and 64 GB of RAM (up to 512 GB on the 64-bit architecture). The Datacenter Edition also provides eight-node clustering and load balancing services as standard features, and on the 64-bit architecture it can support 64 processors.

“We set out with a goal to double the performance of Windows 2000 on common workloads, and we’ve more than achieved that,” Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Division, told

Based on preliminary tests by customers and industry groups running beta versions of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft claims the new product is the best performing Windows server operating system to date when compared with previous versions. The testing found:

* IT infrastructures ran up to 30 percent more efficiently

* A 20 to 30 percent reduction in the number of servers to perform the same workload

* Performance levels up to twice as fast across all workloads

* A 20 percent reduction in overall management costs

* 35 percent of customers were able to redeploy IT staff from server management to higher value projects

* A 50 percent reduction in deployment cost and 40 percent increase in stability over similar Windows NT Server 4.0 infrastructure

* Testers were able to build applications in half the time with twice the performance

* Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPPC) benchmarks ranked Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000 as the fastest 32-way online transaction, with 433,107 transactions per minute.

The company has already shored up alliances with chipmakers to back up its play for the high-end of the datacenter. Earlier in April, Intel, one of Microsoft’s oldest and most important partners, said Windows Server 2003 will support Intel’s Itanium 2 family of 64-bit processors, marking the first formal release of the operating system supporting the Itanium product family. That means no more ‘limited editions’ will be required for Itanium support under Windows.

“Intel has been doing multi-processor servers in the last eight years, and with Intel and Windows-based servers, we are really playing up to the high end,” Intel Itanium Processor Family Product Line Manager Mike Graf told at the time.

But Intel isn’t alone. Microsoft’s Valentine was on hand at AMD’s Tuesday launch of its new Opteron processors, which offer an x86-based 64-bit architecture that is compatible with 32-bit applications.

“We’ve been working with AMD since the beginning on this project,” Valentine said. “64-bit computing; we think it is the wave of the future.”

He added, “It’s about running a Windows server and a Windows workstation in 64-bit with any workload the customer may want to run on it.”

Valentine said 64-bit Windows Server 2003 on the IA-64 architecture will be available beginning with the launch Thursday, while support for AMD’s x86-64 architecture will follow in the coming months.

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