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Microsoft steers back to Longhorn release

Microsoft's top server executive says a version of Longhorn for servers is a go, after all.

Like cooks in a kitchen arguing over a recipe, Microsoft's top executives have frequently disagreed about the company's strategic direction for its servers. But now everyone in Redmond appears to be happily stirring the same pot.

Microsoft's decision last week to offer a "Longhorn" version of Windows followed months of back-and-forth discussion about whether Longhorn would be offered as a client version of Windows, a full server product or both.

At Microsoft's recent summit for financial analysts in Redmond, Wash., senior vice president of servers and tools Eric Rudder said there will be a version of Longhorn for servers, and it will include improvements to the user interface, storage and messaging.

Analysts say it's typical in engineering organizations for an occasional internal discussion among engineers, product management and top management to be played out in public.

Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said IT managers who are making long-term plans will be better off watching what Microsoft ultimately does instead of listening to the marketing messages.

"Plan IT decisions around the architecture and not around operating systems and hardware," he said. "People with an architecture have less trouble because they can slip the products in from below. The change is incremental and it's easier to manage."

The purpose of having a server version of Longhorn is likely connected to the need to provide underpinnings for the Windows Future Storage file system, said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm.

WinFS, which is supposed to offer some sophisticated replication between workstations and servers, is supposed to be the most important part of Longhorn. It seems likely that Microsoft will use some of the replication engine of the next-generation database, code-named Yukon, to shuttle data back and forth, Pawlak said. "I suspect that they are coming out with Longhorn because this capability needs server-side support," he said.

It's not clear when Longhorn server will ship. Microsoft has also promised a release of Windows Server, code-named Blackcomb, in the 2006 time frame.

Microsoft has been close to three years between each major server release, and because Windows Server 2003 shipped in April, it's likely that Longhorn may not be a full server release, Pawlak said.


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