Analysts: Windows Server 2008 will please users

Microsoft has listened to users, with many tweaks to its latest server OS making for a significant improvement over its predecessor, say analysts

Microsoft's long-awaited server operating system, Windows Server 2008, provides evidence that the company is taking note of what customers want, according to analysts.

Some analysts feel that, although the new operating system doesn't represent a huge step forward, numerous small changes mean it's a significant improvement on its predecessor, Windows Server 2003.

Roy Illsley, senior research analyst at Butler Group, told ZDNet.co.uk sister site silicon.com: "They've listened to people and put into [Windows Server] 2008 the enhancements that the system administrators and people like that actually want to see in an operating system."

Illsley said: "I don't see this as being a massive thing. It's lots of little bits that have added up. They've put a lot more effort on the bits."

He added that the availability of a core version of the operating system could be a significant benefit, as it will require fewer patch updates and be easier to manage, due to its smaller footprint.

"That is something that will be of interest to many server managers out there. That would be a very substantial time-saving and effort-saving [development]," said Illsley.

Another important feature, according to Illsley, is role-based access, meaning people only have access to the parts of the operating system that they need to do their job.

He said: "It's much neater and fits in with the way organisations work. It fits in more with Sarbanes-Oxley. It's an expected thing, but it's a nice expected thing."

"I like what I'm seeing. What they've done with 2008 is listen. They've taken the right approach," Illsley added.

Regarding uptake, Illsley said companies will want to see customer case studies and may wait for problems to be ironed out by the first service pack before deciding to take it up.

He said: "The big adoption of Windows Server 2008 will be 12 months after its launch."

Mike Davis, senior analyst at Ovum, said Windows Server 2008 doesn't represent a huge change, as a number of the features have been made available through Windows Server 2003 service packs.

Davis said: "On one level, it's a progression. For security and operational purposes, having these different deployment versions is a key benefit."

Davis singled out BitLocker Drive Encryption as a key feature, as it will mean less time will be taken up responding to security incidents, such as viruses.

He agreed people may wait for the service packs to emerge: "Nobody's going to go for the first release of the product. The bigger take-up will start in 2009, with it ramping up in 2010."

Davis predicted there will be a two to three percent take-up during the first year of release. "Any business that is trying to do a technology refresh will be interested," he said.

In order to generate demand, Davis added Microsoft will need to provide plenty of detail: "It needs to be a continuous feed of information from Microsoft about what can be done [with Windows Server 2008]."

John Enck, research vice president at Gartner, said: "There are not a lot of big features. With this release, what we're really looking at is lots of little features. There's been a lot of good structural changes."

He also suggested significant uptake will occur when companies replace servers, rather than there being an immediate rush. "I'm not anticipating a full rollout any time soon. People move very slowly," he said.

All three analysts downplayed the significance of Hyper-V, the virtualisation element of Windows Server 2008. Enck said: "I always put the virtualisation part aside. The Hyper-V really needs to show some stability. It's simply unproven."

Illsley and Davis agreed, saying the maturity of virtualisation products from companies such as VMware mean Microsoft's version won't automatically become the default.

Research by technology company CDW Corporation found that 63 percent of the 772 technology professionals surveyed will upgrade to Windows Server 2008, with 18 percent already installing it or planning to do so.

Microsoft confirmed that General Motors, Newham Borough Council, London Underground maintenance group Tube Lines and food company Windrush have been testing the operating system and will go live with the launch version.

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