Oz users give new Microsoft server suite thumbs-up

Early adopters of Microsoft's new suite of enterprise products have given the vendor an initial thumbs-up.

Early adopters of Microsoft's new suite of enterprise products have given the vendor an initial thumbs-up.

Launching Windows Server 2008, Virtual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008, Microsoft Australia left it to its early adopter customers -- Lion Nathan, Macquarie Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank, Telstra Business Systems, La Trobe University and the University of Canberra -- to share their thoughts on the new products at an event in Sydney.

Generally, users lauded the three products for improved performance, better security and new functions that cut down on the manual tasks IT professionals are cursed with in their day-to-day jobs. Microsoft was also given credit for unifying the release cycle of the three products.

Tom Townsend, Windows systems team leader at the University of Canberra, said the university has deployed Windows Server 2008 to manage the identities of its over 10,000 students and staff to ease the burden of managing security.

Darryl Warren, CIO of brewing company Lion Nathan, gave the thumbs up to another feature, Windows Terminal Services 2008.

In the past, the brewing company had used a mix of Windows Terminal Services 2003 and Citrix to push centralised applications out to the wide area network.

Many of the company's wineries, Warren said, operate from regional areas "where the quality and speed of the networks you can get isn't as good".

Windows Terminal Services 2008, he said, allows the company to put an icon on a user's desktop that retains the look and feel of their other applications. On clicking the icon, he said, the application running on top of Terminal Services behaves much like a local program would -- without the user even knowing they are running a remotely hosted app.

"It looks a lot cleaner and people will be less confused," Warren said. "They can close that window, for example, like they would any other."

Warren found the latest version of Windows Terminal Services to be "better suited to remote workers that aren't on your network".

Other noted features in Windows Server 2008 include Hyper-V, a set of virtualisation smarts still in beta mode, and Network Access Protection, which automatically checks on the digital hygiene of any computer that tries to access the network.

The management piece, Server Manager, was given approval by enterprise customers for being able to manage both physical and virtual servers while users reported that Internet Information Services 7.0 was much faster than its predecessor.

Windows Server 2008 also introduces Server Core, a feature that gives the option of deploying a "headless" server without any graphical user interface -- ie run from a DOS prompt -- for those that want to reduce maintenance and security risk.

ISVs on Virtual Studio
Independent software vendors (ISVs) on hand at the Sydney event said that Virtual Studio 2008 is faster and easier to use, and had a lot more automation options to speed up the development process. Mining software developer Mincom and logistics software developer CargoWise both claim to have made considerable gains in productivity by upgrading to Visual Studio 2008.

"The actual application environment loads quicker and compiles faster," said CargoWise CEO Richard White. "Its also pretty clean compared to 2003."

White said the ISV has used many of the automation options available in Visual Studio 2008 to speed up time-consuming and fiddly tasks such as testing.

"Any process that is repetitive, we have to get rid of it," he said. "Our developers should be spending time architecting [sic] the future."

CargoWise has also deployed SQL Server 2008, which White said gave the company much more control over system resources, an issue that was "giving us problems in SQL Server 2005".

"We need to tell some processes to sit in the background, and prioritise others," he added.

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