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Microsoft offers Windows, Exchange SP1 betas

At TechEd 2010, Microsoft executives breezed through service pack news in an effort to assuage IT managers' concerns about the company's shift to cloud computing.

NEW ORLEANS -- IT managers received the expected news about service pack betas for Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7 and Exchange Server 2010. But to get these kernels of information, they had to slog through more detail on cloud computing than many are ready to hear.

At Microsoft TechEd 2010 this week, Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools division, continued the discussion that began in April at Microsoft Management Summit 2010, and outlined why IT shops should think about moving to cloud computing. At the same time, he said, IT pros should move to the cloud at their own pace and shouldn't sacrifice existing product investments.

Cloud education, not implementation

For some IT managers, the education is helpful. Curtis Johnson, a unified communications architect at Quest Software, for example, said he is interested in how Microsoft's development of a common platform for companies to host their own cloud through partners or though their own data centers. Until this week, he hadn't understood the extent of Microsoft's cloud initiative.

One IT manager was impressed by Microsoft's own cloud development work on Exchange Server 2010, but Peter Kretche, a senior systems administrator at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, Wis., said the university won't move to cloud computing anytime soon. "We use a PeopleSoft student admission system, and [administrators] won't even let me put it on a VM [virtual machine]," Kretche said.

Intellectual property is the jewel of a university. So to put 20 to 30 years of a professor's research out there is nerve-wracking, he added.


Many IT shops share frustration about what they perceive as a big disconnect between their reality and what vendors are building. "Getting management to understand that you'd be pushing data to someone else doesn't go over very well," said Shawn Reed, a network manager, at Benchmark Group, a Rogers, Ark.-based architectural engineering firm.

IT pros have real problem with cloud because of security concerns, said Alan Silverman, a practice leader at Warwick, R.I.-based IT services firm Atrion Networking Corp. "No matter what is said, [the value of cloud computing] will have to be proven by experience," he said.

Even so, Microsoft believes computing is blowing in this direction, and has begun to combine products and services that let customers transition easily. For instance, the company promises to deliver platforms that works across both on-premises and off-premises clouds. For developers, that platform is Windows Server Appfabric, which became generally available this week.

What about Windows Server and Windows 7?

At the conference, IT managers who are migrating to Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 heard only a brief mention of the service pack beta releases."I wanted to hear more about Windows Server 2008 R2," Benchmark Group's Reed said. "There was almost nothing about the server technologies."

Microsoft did provide some PC-related rhetoric, as Muglia reiterated the strength of PCs and Windows 7 adoption. Microsoft has had to defend traditional desktops in the face of netbooks and iPads, which have grown in popularity as executive jewelry and PC supplements. "The PC is thriving like never before," Muglia said. "Windows 7 [is] going like gangbusters."

Service pack updates

The SP1 public beta for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 are due by the end of July. The new virtualization tools in SP1 will help Windows Server 2008 R2 include Remote FX, which offers a better end-user experience for virtual desktops, and Dynamic Memory, which gives Hyper-V long-overdue memory management capability.

The service pack also will include a series of incremental updates, previously delivered through Windows Update, for both Windows Server and Windows 7 users.

As previously disclosed, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 SP1 beta is now ready. The SP1 beta includes expanded email archiving, e-discovery enhancements, and Outlook Web App improvements based on customer feedback. Meanwhile, the company has yet to release an update to support Exchange Server 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2, which Microsoft promised to provide in SP3 during the second half of 2010.

Margie Semilof and Bianca Strzelczyk contributed to this report.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter

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