Partners frustrated by Microsoft launch delays

Insiders broadly welcome Microsoft's virtualisation push but voice some frustration at the fact some products are later than expected
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Microsoft partners and rivals have generally welcomed Wednesday's launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 but some have claimed that once again the software maker has failed to hit its own deadlines.

HP is a long-standing partner of Microsoft, so its executives were reluctant to comment on any problems that the company has had with the Windows Server product, when approached by ZDNet.co.uk this week. When pushed on the subject, HP's main criticism was Microsoft's habit of giving a product launch date but then usually announcing delays.

"I cannot understand why they announce products and then the launch slips all the time," was one HP employee's take. "Since it is up to them [Microsoft] when they think the product is ready for launch, what is the point of announcing before it is ready?"

Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualisation management software was due to be part of the Windows Server 2008 launch product, but now won't be released until later this year. The release of SQL Server 2008 has also been delayed, although it will still be announced on Wednesday.

"Why don't they just admit that they will miss a deadline on parts of a product, leave that part for the next version and go with what they have?," asked another HP executive. "Isn't that what you are supposed to do?"

But Nicola Sanna of the performance-management software company Netuitive said the industry is used to Microsoft missing deadlines. "Microsoft is often late with products they launch for the first time, so it's no big surprise that Windows Server 2008 will initially ship without Hyper-V."

When Microsoft does release its hypervisor product, it will lead to a general lowering in costs for virtualisation software across the board, he added. "Once Microsoft does deliver, it's for sure that they will inevitably cause the hypervisor market to commoditise over the next two to three years — and this will mean that the hypervisor then becomes a free element of part of the technology stack," he said."Eighteen months from now, customers will expect it to be free and will only pay for it at the additional management tools level to help with provisioning and performance management," Sanna concluded.

Microsoft- and Accenture-backed IT consultants Avanade said adoption of Windows Server 2008 will be driven by better security and virtualisation enhancements.

"Improved server security features, reduced costs of operation and the addition of Hyper-V to deliver virtualisation on the server will be the main drivers for Windows Server 2008 adoption," according to Darren Brown, data-centre lead at Avanade UK.

"Our more security-sensitive customers, in government or finance, for example, are looking at Windows Server 2008 for the improved security alone," Brown said. "With Windows Server 2008, it will be a lot easier to deploy servers to specific roles, so that it is used for one role instead of multiple services [and] this reduces its 'attack surfaces', which an opportunistic hacker could take advantage of, thereby keeping data and the network itself more secure."

Brown also welcomed the pending launch of the Microsoft virtualisation product, Hyper-V. "This will help us provide better solutions to common customer problems in the data centre such as enhanced business continuity and disaster recovery, further rationalisation of test and development environments, and an overall increase in server availability."

Speaking to ZDNet.co.uk at VMware's VMworld conference in Cannes, Sun — an often an outspoken critic of Microsoft's dominance of the IT software business — admitted that launch of Windows Server 2008 and the eventual release of the Hyper-V hypervisor would open up competition in the virtualisation market.

"This is a very open event and Microsoft is definitely here with its news to act as competition to VMware," Sun's Ben Lenail, director, corporate development told ZDNet.co.uk. "But they have the time, patience and expertise to grow [Hyper-V]."

Lenail said he sees room for both for more players in the growing virtualisation market. "They are strategically the one company here that we are most closely aligned with," he said. "After all, they are the volume leader in the x64 space and, while this is the dominant server platform, it makes sense for us to partner with them."

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