There is one theory that suggests customers will hold off their migrations to Windows Server 2008 until the Hyper-V virtualization role is in place later this year.
Microsoft, naturally, has a different view of the server's early potential.
"We think [Windows Server 2008] will deploy in an existing infrastructure and people will replace a server [according to the] workload it runs," Laing said. "They will upgrade their print servers versus every server that runs [Windows Server 2003]."
Laing said that since virtualization is the newest server role, it is getting the most attention, but he said he believes that other features will entice some customers to upgrade.
Survey takers respond to hype
Virtualization was easily the most anticipated feature of Windows Server 2008 according to a poll of more than 500 members at SearchWinIT.com. There was nearly twice as much interest in Hyper-V as the next nearest Windows Server 2008 feature, which was Network Access Protection, a security feature that checks the health of PCs entering a network.
Laing doesn't draw any parallels between what will be the uptake of Windows Server 2008 versus the adoption of Vista, the desktop software. Migrations will likely match those of Windows Server 2003.
He said that at Windows Server 2008's launch this week, there were five times as many applications certified to run with it than were available when Windows Server 2003 was launched.
Laing said he expects that most new server installations will be freshly installed on new machines, mainly because people have bought a new machine or they are moving to a new application or upgrading their infrastructure. But, he said, Microsoft has tested the upgrade of all the inbox roles, so the company does support the upgrade of a file server, print server or Active Directory, for example.
Support for Windows Server 2003 will end
"For third-party applications, we recommend you consult with the application vendor," he said. "Many server applications are always supported on specific versions of the OS, [so an upgrade] might not be supported."
Windows Server 2008 is the last server operating system to be developed with a 32-bit architecture option. Laing said that roughly 50% of those using Windows Server 2008 today are running it on 64-bit systems.
As to Windows Server 2003, Laing wouldn't say whether or not there would be a Service Pack 3 in the future. "We will support [Windows] Server 2003 through the normal lifecycle," he said. "It's a pretty good product, isn't it? If people are happy with 2003 they should stay on it."
And they've got a little time. Mainstream support for Windows Server 2003 ends two years after the release of Windows Server 2008. Extended support ends five years after mainstream support ends, according to Microsoft.