For most IT administrators, the next generation of Windows Server is too far away to contemplate, and its features are expected to be a moving target until the day the product ships sometime in 2007.
Nonetheless, at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 in Los Angeles this week, Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior vice president in the Windows Server division at Microsoft, will outline features planned for Windows Longhorn Server.
But Windows administrators at the Boston Area Windows Server User Group are mainly concerned about the future server's stability. They're hoping that Microsoft ratchets up some of the security features, said Dan Stolts, president of Bay State Integrated Technology Inc., a Lakeville, Mass., consulting firm.
"Microsoft did a good job with XP [Service Pack 2] and a very good job with Windows Server 2003, and [IT administrators] are hoping they step that up a few notches," Stolts said.
But for the most part, the business of charting Longhorn Server's evolution is still a guessing game and it's not clear what will hit home with most administrators.
"We really haven't given [Windows Longhorn Server] much thought," said Miguel Sian, manager of systems engineering at Independence Air, Dulles, Va. "We really don't see any deficiencies with Windows Server 2003, and this new server won't even be out until 2007."
At the conference, developers are Microsoft's natural target. Broadening that community is going to be Microsoft's focus this time, said Neil Macehiter, a partner at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, a Cambridge, U.K., consulting firm.
"Beyond talking about security and reliability, and having servers be role-based, Longhorn Server will be low key because it's still expected to change," he said. "Microsoft has talked about a shift to more edge-based computing, more VPN and application tunneling to make it easier to deploy applications to the edge."
"Microsoft doesn't want to set expectations that they cannot deliver," Macehiter added.
Microsoft recently released a beta of its new file system, WinFS, but it was aimed at the Windows Vista client platform, not the server. "Microsoft will be emphasizing the client at PDC," he said.
"Last time Office as a platform didn't figure, but now it's [a big focus]," he said. "They are also talking about what they are doing with the Web as a platform, by opening up MSN to developers."