With rumors rampant over the release date and what's inside of Microsoft's next major OS release, Longhorn, company executives launched a full-court press on the tech media Wednesday, laying out a timetable for its upcoming OS releases and providing more details about Longhorn's features.
To set the record straight, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Group, said Microsoft has set a new timetable that includes a major OS release every four years, with an interim update following two years behind.
The first update to Windows Server 2003, dubbed R2, will be available in 2005, he said. "R2 is built on top of Windows Server 2003 and does not require substantive evaluation to deploy," Muglia said, meaning that R2 will be fully compatible with Windows Server 2003.
It will not be without new features, however, perhaps the most salient of which is what Muglia called network protection or quarantine. If users are joining the network remotely, for example, a network administrator will be able to ensure the system has up to date virus protection and patches, and if it doesn't the administrator will be able to kick the user off the network, said Muglia.
Dwight Davis, a vice president at Summit Strategies, said the quarantine feature, along with support for federated ID, which is also coming to R2, are the two most significant features, and ones that are necessary to compete with work being done at Sun Microsystems, Novell and IBM.
Also in R2 will be branch office support, to make it easier to deploy remote office support at lower administrative costs. Basically, R2 will take the file sharing and do a replication between a branch office and the main office. All data will be replicated and backed up at the central office.
Longhorn, the next major OS release, is now targeted for 2007. Its major new features will include the WinFX platform, including Avalon for mostly client-side graphics, Microsoft's next generation file system WinFS, and the Web services messaging system Indigo.
WinFS will allow applications to take advantage of richer storage and search capabilities.
"Both structured and unstructured data can reside together," Muglia said.
Davis at Summit Strategies said that the new file system is a major feature that will allow for more efficient data integration and information flow.
"It will tie together different data sources on a common file format and bring more intelligence to computer operations, because you can exchange information from different sources and draw relationships from that," said Davis.
Muglia ticked off a number of other new features, including a new management platform that will give users better command shell scripting, support for IPv6, and dynamic partitioning.
Dynamic partitioning should allow administrators to swap out processors without interrupting a running application.
Muglia also said that the server edition of Longhorn will come about six months to a year after the client version.
Despite all the new features, Davis said what is really missing from Longhorn is Longhorn itself.
"They need an expedited release of the Longhorn generation," he said.
Microsoft is treading water while the world is going by, according to Davis. He cited the recent announcement by IBM around their managed client to push middleware down to the desktop. IBM, in tandem with the broader Linux environment, should be Microsoft's main concern, Davis said.