IT is still critical for a competitive advantage, stressed a Microsoft official Monday morning at the TechEd 2003 conference in Dallas, while also touting Web services and providing product road maps.
As part of these road maps, Microsoft revealed a delay in delivery of the Yukon database planned for 2004.
Paul Flessner, Microsoft's senior vice president for the Windows Server division, was quick to reject recently published reports contending that IT no longer offers a competitive advantage because everyone has it.
"Everyday, our job together is to propel IT forward," Flessner said.
Conceding that Microsoft has been part of a "crisis in complexity" in IT, Flessner offered up Web services and Microsoft's plethora of products such as Windows Server 2003 as a next wave of computing.
"We have to figure out a way from the inception to the development to the deployment and operations on how we can be more cost effective," Flessner said.
He stressed that Web services presents a standards-bases approach to application infrastructure. "It's the right thing to do, it's the right thing for our industry, it's the right way to make our applications relevant for a longer period of time," Flessner said. "It will lower the cost of investment if we do it correctly."
Microsoft acknowledges not every system will be based on Microsoft software but will support integration with other platforms, he said. "Please get connected with Web services. I think it's what we need to do as an industry. I hope you do it on the Microsoft platform and .Net," Flessner said.
An attendee at TechEd, Rodger Ward, network analyst for LAN-networking services at Baptist Health System in San Antonio, said he agreed that IT differentiation still makes a difference. Ward added that his company expects to implement Web services based on Windows and Netware. "That's something we're going to implement," he said.
But Baptist Health System expects to upgrade its Windows NT 4.0 systems to Windows 2000, not the recently released Windows Server 2003, since the 2000 platform is more established at this point, Ward said.
Flessner provided details on Microsoft's solutions based on the Windows platform, covering aspects ranging from federated identity to XML and application management. Microsoft is proposing its "Windows Server System" as its IT platform, the foundation of which is Windows Server 2003, said Flessner.
He provided brief road maps of a plethora of Microsoft products, including acknowledging the delay of the next version of the SQL Server database, codenamed "Yukon." It is now scheduled for release in the second half of 2004. It had been slated for the first half of 2004.
The company is delaying the release for quality assurance, but the delay also will enable Microsoft to synchronize plans for putting the company’s Common Language Runtime (CLR) in both its database and development tools, said Stan Sorensen, Microsoft director SQL Server product management, in an interview later on Monday. CLR is intended to make it easy to design components and applications in which objects interact across applications. Yukon also is expected to feature improvements in areas such as business intelligence and security.
A private beta release of Yukon to a select group of 1,000 users is planned for the end of this month. A larger, public beta is Yukon is planned for 2004.
Release Candidate 1 for the Exchange Server 2003, an early version of the product, was released at the show on Monday, Flessner said. Exchange Server 2003 features wireless device support. Direct mail access via HTTP also is featured. Exchange Server 2003 is due in the 2003-04 timeframe.
The company at the show announced a beta release of BizTalk Server 2004. Additionally, the Jupiter e-business suite, which combines the BizTalk Server integration system, Content Management Server and Commerce Server, is scheduled for release in 2005. SharePoint Portal Server Version 3 also is planned for a 2005 release.
The "Whidbey" version of the Visual Studio development tool is planned for release this year or in 2004. Whidbey is expected to feature integration with Yukon as well as improved IDE productivity and extended support for XML Web Services and Office programmability.
A follow-up version of Visual Studio, codenamed "Orcas," is expected in 2005. Orcas is expected to leverage "Longhorn," the successor to the Windows XP OS planned for 2005.
Microsoft in 2006 plans to release the next version of Windows Server, which will complement the SQL Server database. The "Kodiak" version of Exchange, which will support Web services and runs on top of SQL Server, also is planned for 2006. Kodiak will be supported automatically within Visual Studio.
Also announced at the show was the unveiling of SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, for making Web-based or paper reports based on business intelligence in the database. The software is expected to ship by the end of this year.
Additionally, Borland Software at the show announced an agreement with Microsoft to ship the SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition database with Borland C#Builder for the Microsoft .Net Framework. As part of the agreement, Microsoft will develop a Borland page accessible on the SQL Server Web site where developers can obtain information about the C#Builder tool.