How will Windows Server 2008 fare on the compatibility front?

Summary:Windows Server 2008, a k a Longhorn Server, isn't expected to be released to manufacturing till the end of this year. But that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about compatibility issues that might arise.

Windows Server 2008, a k a Longhorn Server, isn't expected to be released to manufacturing till the end of this year. But that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about compatibility issues that might arise.

Microsoft, for its part, already is thinking about it -- and has been doing so for more than a year, company officials say.

The server team is aware of the potential pain points. Windows Server 2008 applications that directly touch the kernel, such as security products, backup tools and the like, are the ones most likely to encounter potential compatibility issues, they acknowledge. Server apps that check for OS version numbers before installing, and those that make heavy use of completely rewritten Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, Microsoft's built-in Web server, also could hit stumbling blocks, unless vendors intervene, according to Microsoft's early feedback.

I had a chance to chat recently with Neil Hutson, director and manager of Windows Server Developer Evangelism for a story on the making of Windows Server 2008 that I wrote for Redmond Developer News.  From the article:

"With Windows Vista, there were several feature changes and additions that have created compatibility hiccups for certain hardware, software and services. Some of these changes -- specifically the addition of more restrictive User Account Control (UAC) permissions, protected-mode default for Internet Explorer and new sleep/hibernate power-management -- are less likely to wreak havoc on Longhorn Server apps than they did on Vista ones. As Microsoft notes in its client and server OS compatibility "Cookbook," Windows Server 2008 "does not, by default, install applications and accessories that are considered to be part of a user's desktop experience."

"A dearth of compatible drivers isn't likely to be the same sore spot for Windows Server 2008 as it has been for Vista, given that the server OS needs to support a smaller set of products than the consumer client OS.

As Hutson acknowledges, 'Vista took some of the driver pain for us. We use the same core device-driver model [Vista does]. We started earlier and learned lessons from [it].'"

Developers who want to get a jump-start on making sure their apps run correctly with Windows Server 2008 might want to check out the updated developer Cookbook for Vista and Windows Server 2008, which is downloadable for free from Microsoft's Dev Readiness Web site.

Any Windows Server 2008 testers and/or developers have any early compatibility data to share?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Servers

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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