Windows Server 2008: the Expectations

Windows Server 2008 is the subject of a lot of expectations but those great expectations may have a few surprises associated with them. Here is what a survey published in the March 3, 2008 issue of Information Week of 1100 IT shops resulted in:
1)50% of the users will deploy Windows Server 2008 on half or more of their companies servers;
2)47% are adopting the new server OS for its IIS 7 features and performance;
3)32% plan to adopt within a year of its release.
This is an inverted pyramid. The most notable number is the last – 32% plan to adopt within a year.

Vista Does Not Pave the Way for Windows Server 2008

Microsoft touts the fact that Windows Server 2008 and Vista have the same code base. This may be more of a problem than an advantage. All those horror stories you have heard about a)software compatibility; b)hardware compatibility especially with older peripherals, and c)performance problems are substantiated in many places. They carry over to Windows Server 2008. Perhaps the most telling is the 10 part “Death Match” at Infoworld between Windows XP versus Windows Vista one year later. This is the review that should have been done one year earlier – similar to the Linux versus Vista review done here.

But even the Service Pack for Vista is being found wanting just getting it installed and what it delivers.

Now given that some of the management and administrative features of IIS7 and Windows Server plus its related SQL Server 2008 features set are getting very good marks; one has to wonder how long both Vista and Windows Server 2008 can endure the big 3 problems above without incurring defections, big defections. There are clear signs defections are occurring now on the desktop as both Apple and Linux gain momentum at Windows expense. This in turn means the wait for Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008 to come up to speed may be longer than for Windows XP/Windows Server 2003 for the following reasons.

1)the problems are fundamental – take the performance problems. The Linux versus Vista benchmark found Linux running at 1/3 the size of Vista in memory and having performance notably faster in Linux on benchmarks of common code on identically the same hardware. Unfortunately Windows Server 2008 tracks Vista desktop on speed. For example, Windows Server 2008 delivers 4.2 seconds average page response time using IIS7 on Microsoft.com website worse than 75% of all web servers. In contrast IBM is at 2.8 seconds and Google is at 1.6 seconds respectively. Also Microsoft has dodged the TPC benchmarks and gone to the alternative TPE benchmarks where they are the only game in town. Currently SQL Server 2005 on Wndows Server 2003 performs at 25-30% of the Oracle and IBM TPC benchmarks.
2)the size of the code base is huge – moving from Windows XPs 40M lines of code, Vista tops in at 50M. In contrast, Linux comes in at about 10-12M depending on which version is used;
3)as problems fester – as Vista problems fester, both hardware and software developers hesitate on which OS, Windows Vista or Windows XP to expend the most support for. And Vista demands significant rewrites for its Presentation and Communication logic in order to gain significant feature and admin advantages.

The Update Conundrum

So for shops that are contemplating the update to Windows Server 2008 – there are high expectations but also some harsh realities to account for. A key indicator will be if and when Microsoft releases Service Pack 3 of Windows XP which is faster again according to early testers. The other indicator will be if Microsoft sticks to the June 30th expiry of Windows XP availability for sale. If they do stick to that including restricted availability to enterprise customers, then it means that Vista will be the only choice from Microsoft – and users will have to grin and bear it. Meanwhile hardware and software developers will have more certainty; but still the problem of transitioning from Windows XP to Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008. In sum, the Expectations may be Great, but so are the Timing of Implementation Problems for Windows Server 2008.