Windows Server 2003 will not officially launch until later this month, but it has already passed Sun Microsystems' year-old Solaris 9 operating system in a new Web survey.
The latest monthly Web server survey from Netcraft, published on Sunday, found that the number of Web site hostnames running Windows Server 2003 passed Solaris 9 around the end of March. Server 2003 now powers nearly 30,000 sites compared with just over 25,000 for Solaris 9, according to Netcraft. The software had its gold release a few days ago and will launch on 24 April.
The Internet is seen as a key battleground for the future of the computing industry, and unlike the PC desktop, is not controlled by Microsoft software. Microsoft's upcoming server is the company's latest attempt to rectify this situation.
Microsoft's Web server software, including Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 -- the Web serving software that runs on Server 2003 -- and earlier editions, ranks second in Netcraft's survey, powering about 27 percent of the survey's roughly 40 million respondents. By comparison, 63 percent run on the leader, open-source Web server Apache. Microsoft's share grew by 0.01 percent over the March survey, and Apache grew by 0.06 percent.
It is not unusual for Microsoft to begin encouraging its partners to use new products before they are officially available. The company has been running Server 2003 for its own Web site since July, according to Netcraft, along with Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0. Windows Server 2000 and IIS 5.0 also had a wide deployment before the software officially launched, according to Netcraft director Mike Prettejohn.
Sun is a bitter rival of Microsoft, but unlike the Windows maker, Sun is not primarily a software company. Prettejohn said he was surprised to find that sun.com and other publicly-facing Sun sites are still running on Solaris 8, although Solaris 9 has been available since May 2002.
The economics of the two companies are very different, with Sun focused on server hardware sales and Microsoft dependent on software upgrades, Prettejohn said. "There is no incremental benefit to Sun in (customers) changing operating systems. That's why Solaris 9 isn't unbundled from the hardware it comes from," he said. "But Microsoft doesn't eat if they don't get you to upgrade."