Microsoft updates IT on key product releases

The software company has new beta releases for SQL Server 2008, ILM and a handful of new topic-specific certifications in the pipeline.

ORLANDO -- With big bang releases like Vista and Windows Server 2008 already in the market, Microsoft must dig deeper to wow the IT crowd now in town for the second week of TechEd 2008 held here.

After a week of showing future technologies to developers, the company will revert to the present this week and focus on IT managers who struggle with earthbound technology management issues.

To that end, Microsoft has a release candidate ready for SQL Server 2008, which is due to ship this fall and a third beta for the next version of Identity Lifecycle Manager,

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the technology that manages an end user's identity, said Bob Kelly, vice president of infrastructure server marketing at Microsoft. Kelly said there will also be a first release candidate of Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, formerly known as SoftGrid.

Kelly also said Microsoft is on track to deliver its server virtualization hypervisor, Hyper-V, which was promised to ship 180 days after the release of Windows Server 2008 in late February. "We feel good about where we are and there is no indication that we will need to do another release candidate," he said. "But if a customer comes back with a critical problem, we will do the right thing."

In addition to the new product releases, Microsoft will introduce a handful of new professional certifications. Among them is a certification for Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V, one for the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, another for System Center Virtual Machine Manager and one devoted to Windows Server Application Infrastructure, which addresses applications that are run virtually.

Finally, Microsoft said Forefront Client Security software will support Hyper-V when it releases. In the Forefront product family, the integrated security system, code-named Stirling, will be released sometime in the first half of 2009. The company issued the first public beta last April.

On the security front, Microsoft will be entering a crowded market, but for IT shops that want to reduce their overall number of vendors, Forefront may have an edge, said Bernie Klinder, a managing consultant at Cleveland-based Blue Chip Consulting Group LLC.

"Some want the best of breed and some want a single vendor," said Klinder, who says some of his clients are expressing an interest in Forefront. The main concern among IT shops is the complexity that is typical of security products and they want to see it reduced.

"None of the stuff is seamless, which is why integration with [System Center Operations Manager] is something people would love," Klinder said.

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