One Legged Man on a Bicycle

It must have been late last summer, at an event I was chairing for customers, at the Microsoft Campus on future Operating Systems, that I asked how many people in the audience were respectively using Windows NT, Windows 2000 and of course Windows XP?

It came as no great surprise that people were still quite happily using Windows NT but it was rather more than I expected. Windows 2000 migration was still very much ‘work-in-progress’ and in between, were those organisations in both the private and the public sector who couldn’t decide whether they should jump straight to Windows XP on the desktop; missing-out Windows 2000 completely or wait and see what kind of rabbit Microsoft pulls out of the hat next, on the long and winding road that leads to ‘Longhorn’.

Fiddling with the Server names hasn’t helped much either. After all, is a Server a .Net Server or .Not anymore?

Server software accounts for about 20% of Microsoft's sales, or $3.4 billion of the $16.3 billion in sales reported in the six months before Christmas. Even in the middle of an IT recession, Microsoft saw its server sales grow 13% during the period.. Convincing its customers to upgrade or buy new Servers is important in a flat market and to remind you of some of the recent Windows Server releases, between April of 2001 and this month we have had:

1. Windows 2002 Server
2. Windows .NET Server
3. Windows .NET Server 2003
4. Windows Server 2003

Microsoft claims Windows Server 2003 includes the latest .NET components built-in, is less expensive to manage, more secure and easier to install than its predecessors. Of equal importance in the eyes of many, is that it is also the first server built with ‘Trustworthy Computing’ as its priority and is defensively priced against ‘Penguin-creep’, as Microsoft frets over about the appearance of cheap Linux applications servers.

I’m sure that Windows Server 2003 sounds very attractive if you happen to be starting your business from a blank sheet of paper but for the great majority of IT Managers, changing Servers more than once every three to five years is not attractive as this involves both cost and business interruption. Microsoft, as does every company, needs a predictable revenue stream to satisfy its shareholders but the interests of business and the software industry are opposed where new Server releases are concerned.

In order to make its Trustworthy Computing strategy viable, Microsoft needs to have all its customers singing from the same hymn sheet and that involves ditching anything, which isn’t up-to-date. The trouble is that several million Servers aren’t easily swapped-out overnight and it’s going to take another three years before the new and improved Windows 2003 occupies the same dominant space in the Enterprise that Windows 2000 and Windows NT do today.

This Server cycle is an expensive and time-consuming merry-go-round with no solution in sight and no way for any of us to get off without the unacceptable risk of business interruption in the process. Meanwhile, Microsoft resembles a one-legged man on a bicycle, who has to keep pedalling new Server releases or risk falling off.


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