Microsoft's 'Blue' servers: What's coming when

Microsoft's 'Blue' servers: What's coming when

Summary: New versions of Microsoft's Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center, Visual Studio and Windows Intune are all on tap, arriving largely by the end of calendar 2013.


Microsoft finally peeled back the covers on the server-side products coming as part of the "Blue" wave on the opening day of the annual Microsoft TechEd North America conference.


Microsoft officials went public with details about Windows Server Blue, which is officially christened "Windows Server 2012 R2"; System Center "Blue," which will be called "System Center 2012 R2"; SQL Server Blue, a k a "SQL Server 2014"; and Visual Studio Blue, or "Visual Studio 2013," on June 3 at its show for IT pros and developers in New Orleans. Company officials also said to expect the next version of Microsoft's Windows Intune device management/security service, to roll out concurrently with the rest of the Blue servers.

Microsoft officials said they plan to release public preview versions of all of these products (except for the next release of Windows Intune) around the time of the Build 2013 conference, which is at the end of June 2013. That's the same time that Microsoft also will be releasing the public preview of Windows client Blue, officially known as Windows 8.1.

The final versions of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Visual Studio 2013 will be out by the end of calendar 2013, officials confirmed today. SQL Server 2014 will be out shortly after these two products, officials said. If Microsoft syncs up the arrival of its Blue servers with Windows Blue, which is highly likely, many of these products could be released to manufacturing by late summer or early fall 2013.

As previous leaks about Windows Server Blue indicated, the next version of Microsoft's Windows Server product will include featues that improve interoperability and integration with Windows Azure, Microsoft's public cloud platform.

Among the new features that will be part of Windows Server 2012 are Windows Azure Active Directory integration; richer Office 365 support for mobile device management and SharePoint Online; some of the features Microsoft delivered for hosters as part of its "Katal" services for Windows Server; and built-in Windows Azure Online backup integration. (The Katal/Windows Azure Services for Windows Server components are being renamed Windows Azure Pack with the coming Windows Server Blue release.)

On the Visual Studio front, Microsoft officials are saying the public preview of Visual Studio 2013 will definitely be released at Build. Meanwhile, many of the new hybrid application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities that will be incorporated into Visual Studio 2013 will be released to testers today, June 2, via Team Foundation Service.

The specific new TFS features releasing today include:

  • Agile Portfolio Management (enterprise agile project management)
  • Team Room (improved team collaboration)
  • Cloud Load Testing (ensuring quality, performance and scalability of applications)
  • Code Commenting (accelerating team members’ ability to understand and interpret code, find and resolve faults, integrate)
  • Enhanced Web Test Case Management features

In terms of what's new in SQL Server 2014, Microsoft will be building its in-memory database technology, codenamed Hekaton, into the coming release, as company officials disclosed last year. Microsoft also is adding more high-availability "Always On" functionality on top of what it already provided in SQL Server 2012, plus new and additional cloud-backup support to SQL Server 2014.

With the coming releases of  System Center and Intune, Microsoft is working to more tightly integrate Configuration Manager 2012 R2 and Windows Intune so that Intune administration can be done entirely from inside Configuration Manager, officials said. Microsoft already took some steps along this path with the "Wave D" release of Windows Intune, which provided a way for admins to manage devices running Microsoft- and non-Microsoft-developed operating systems.

Update: Microsoft officials have not yet gone public with pricing plans for any of these next-generation releases. I'd assume that users with Software Assurance contracts will get the next releases for free. But it will be interesting to see how and if Microsoft creates new subscription plans, since it is rolling out new versions of its Server products on an approximately annual basis, going forward.

Topics: Windows Server, Cloud, Data Centers, Data Management, Software Development


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Metro Server?

    Are they going to force Modern UI on the server console the way they're doing it on the client?
    • No?

      The primary interface for a server is and has always been the CLI.

      If you're using a server like you're supposed to, you won't be using the GUI much.
      • Not true in the case of Windows Server

        CLI is important, but the principal user interface for Server is MMC snap in consoles. That's where most of the work is done. These are all still Win32, so there should be no stupid Metro front-ending all of this.
        • Not true in the case of server 2008

          since the dawn of the Server core and PowerShell. You can do pretty much everything with PowerShell nowadays.
          • disagree

            Sure, you can managed and mass-add, modify users in active directory in powershell but it is not the best way in terms of presentation or usability. powershell is useful for doing some pretty low-level stuff but something as easy as display a users' group can do it via dsa.msc or powershell...but the way it's presented in powershell (but just a giant wall of text) leaves room for error.......
      • What a bunch of

        10yrs in the sysadmin business and never used CLI more often than GUI. You're definitely a *NIX baby.
      • "The primary interface for a server is and has always been the CLI"

        Always? Microsoft's Server Core debuted with Windows Server 2008:

        "What Is Server Core?

        Apple's current OS X Server also includes a GUI.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Not on the windows side.

        All of the windows server admins I know never use the CLI. Actually they are hostile to it - which I find odd. I cannot imagine administering a server through a GUI. Quite distastful, and very inefficient.

        I will say its better than it was now with powershell and windows server core... But still, I think 99% of windows admins need their bloated clunky GUIs... bleh.
    • The default install is Core Server which is 100% CLI

      you have know idea what your talking about.

      You rarely if ever will log onto a server, most is done with MMC/RSAT on a desktop.

      Metro is only a factor for a RDS server where desktop experience is installed.
    • You know, you can use both

      I haven't done a lot of Windows Server admin lately, but I have done some. I use some CLI, some MMC-based admin programs. If I was full-time at it then for things I do a lot I'd use CLI. For things I do rarely I'd navigate the GUI.

      In any case, none of you have actually answered my question.
      • The answer to the question is "No"

        there are three modes of installation - one the full on Metro experience, one called "Minimal Server Interface" (starts the old "Configure server" dashboard and command prompt in a Windows-like UI), and then Core + CLI.

        So you don't have to use the Metro junk.
    • It really doesn't matter

      If you know how to administer server, you don't have any problems with either.
  • Microsoft's 'Blue' servers: What's coming when

    I will be upgrading our servers as soon as its released. Need to take advantage of being the first with the latest software.
    • It's Windows Server 2012 R2

      Therefore, no testing is necessary prior to deployment on production servers.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Re: being the first with the latest software.

      And the latest bugs.

      You love to be an Guinea Pig, don't you Loverock? :)
  • I am running True Blue as we speak...

    My rep and I hatched the master plan to deploy the Blue Wave of servers about 6 months ago. The discussion occurred over a fine meal and was finalized over a $200 glass of Cognac. I named the program True Blue and cancelled all vacations for the summer while my MCSEs work through the summer to deploy. As for me, I am taking a 4 week vacation but will be checking in on an hourly basis to make sure nobody is slacking.
    Mike Cox
    • These spam-bots are getting really annoying.