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Exploring Windows Server's Vista ties

In an interview, Microsoft Server and Tools unit head Bob Muglia talks about Wednesday's big launch of Windows Server 2008.

Updated 10:55 a.m. with clarification from Microsoft that Hyper-V standalone is not scheduled to ship until sometime in the second half of 2008, contrary to what Muglia stated.

Microsoft is getting ready for what it calls its biggest IT launch in history.

I'm not sure everyone will agree with that notion, but the launch of Windows Server 2008 and the next version of Visual Studio is clearly an important one for Microsoft, given that the server and tools unit has been one of Microsoft's fastest-growing businesses in terms of sales and profits. (Microsoft is also "launching" SQL Server 2008 at the event, but the product itself won't actually be ready until the second half of this year.)

Bob Muglia
Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business Microsoft

Ahead of Wednesday's launch, I had a chance to talk with Server and Tools boss Bob Muglia. Here are some of the highlights from our interview.

What are the Vista ties for Windows Server 2008?
Muglia: One of the most important Vista ties is we are building the products off the same code base and we simultaneously shipped (Windows) Vista SP1 with (Windows) Server 2008. The real benefit of this for customers is that it makes it simpler for us to maintain and drive the systems forward as we learn about security issues.

There is an enormous amount of work that went into improving the security across the board that applies to both the client and the server. And then there are some very specific things on the server we have done. All of the ports are closed by default and we only open them up as the roles are installed on a machine.

Are there also some ties in terms of the network access protection feature?
Muglia: We worked across the client and server teams to build network access protection so that when clients are out in the wild and they rejoin the corporate network, they have to run a health check to make sure they fully meet the company policies and they have the latest set of patches and antimalware signatures before they join the network.

Is there a "live" component to Windows Server?
Muglia: The biggest "live" component is the fact that Windows Live runs on Windows Server. is running entirely on Windows Server 2008 right now. A good part of the Windows Live servers are running Windows Server 2008. We don't have any direct connection to Windows Live because Windows Live is really targeted to consumers.

It seems like every part of the business is getting a services component. I'm curious what that looks like for your part of the business.
Muglia: What we're doing is we are looking at the things that customers do with servers inside their infrastructure and are looking at how we can bring those to customers as a service. As an example, my team is driving (Microsoft) Online. That group today is offering hosted messaging and e-mail, so hosted Exchange and Sharepoint and Unified Communications. We are also working on desktop management.

Is that a starting point?
Muglia: It's really just the first set of roles. We'll continue to look at a wide variety of roles that make sense to be delivered as a set of services.

Corporate adoption of Vista was somewhat slower than Microsoft had expected. What do you think the adoption cycle will be for Windows Server 2008?
Muglia: It's important to realize how people adopt a new server. People have a lot of servers running inside their data center (already) and we really don't see a large number of those being upgraded to Windows Server 2008. One of the key things about Windows Server 2008 has been to run right next to 2003 and even 2000 and be a good neighbor. We do expect that as customers begin to deploy new servers, a very significant number of those will deploy with Windows Server 2008. With Windows Server 2003 we saw a pretty quick uptake.

Do you have a sense of how much 2008's release affects overall server growth rates. Is it neutral, is it an accelerant?
Muglia: We don't anticipate any massive change in the number of hardware servers shipped because of the introduction of Server 2008. Servers continue to grow pretty well and Windows Server is outgrowing the overall market fairly considerably right now.

As the economy faces challenges, there are some concerns for overall IT spending. I'm curious what your thoughts are and what a slower economy in the U.S. might mean for your business.
Muglia: We are a worldwide business, so the U.S. is only a part of our sales. We have very strong expectations of growth in the future. When we look at the businesses that, say, my organization is in, we are still a small percentage of total IT spend in those areas. There is a lot of upside opportunity for Microsoft to grow our business even if IT spend is reduced or not growing as fast?

One of the hot areas of discussion these days is virtualization. One of the things we are hearing about is the idea that the hypervisor is going to be built in to the hardware. I know VMware has something in that area, as does Xen. Is that something Microsoft is looking at?
Muglia: We've said we will be offering Hyper-V as a standalone solution, so that is an option for our (hardware) partners. We actually are certainly in conversations about that. Our plan is to release Hyper-V standalone as the same time as Hyper-V, which is within 180 days of Server 2008, which makes it early August. (Update: Microsoft said on Tuesday that Muglia misspoke and that the standalone version of Hyper-V will ship later, some time in the second half of 2008.)