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Microsoft expected to spell it out for us in '05

In addition to new server and database software releases in 2005, Microsoft will be more concrete about some of the technology strategies it floated in 2004, according to analysts.

Microsoft will continue efforts to raise its profile in the data center in 2005, as well as define strategies such as the Dynamic Systems Initiative and Common Engineering Criteria, industry observers predict.

There are also many Microsoft products due out in the new year. By mid-year, the software maker is expected to release its SQL Server 2005 database management software, an R2 version of Windows Server 2003, the Windows Update Services patch manager and a Compute Cluster Edition of Windows Server 2003. And also likely will be the greatly anticipated first beta test of Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

Overall, Microsoft must continue to demonstrate to customers that it's an enterprise-class provider, even as it is developing Longhorn and the Common Engineering Criteria and making R2 a successful and interesting upgrade, said Frank Gillett, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

Microsoft will continue to push into the data center, making progress on what is already announced, Gillett added.

Better security is one way that Microsoft can show customers that it's ready for the data center.

"[Microsoft] has to lock down in some better fashion," said Carmine Iannace, director of IT infrastructure at Welch Foods Inc., in Concord, Mass. "That's one of the main reasons we didn't choose it for our ERP [enterprise resource planning]. If Microsoft was less prone to viruses with hack attacks, it would have a more prominent role in our data center."

Interoperability outline needed

Pundits are also looking for some strategic advances from Microsoft. The company must make it clear how its products will interoperate with those from other suppliers, and it must offer its operating environments in a more modular way -- allowing organizations to install only those functions and services they choose, said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of software research at International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass., market research firm.

Kusnetzky said that in 2005, Microsoft must also clearly articulate a pricing and license model for virtualized environments.

Establishing specific criteria for products that carry the Windows Server System label, and emphasizing a commonality across its server stacks are crucial, said Dwight Davis, a vice president at Boston-based Summit Strategies Inc.

Davis said Summit often looks at computing through the filter of dynamic computing, so for Microsoft, DSI and its goal of creating operationally aware software is its lead initiative.

"We think Microsoft has been behind the curve when it comes to articulating a broad dynamic computing strategy on a par with IBM and [Hewlett-Packard Co.]," Davis said. "It's critical to Microsoft that it move quickly with DSI and the approach to modeling data centers, and understanding the capacities of different platforms if they are going to be competitive."

A clearer vision of DSI

Developing and defining the DSI vision is also important to Forrester's Gillett. "What is most interesting is the [System Definition Model]," he said. "The idea of meta data in the code -- preparing instructions about how to use and take care of the code -- that part is unique to Microsoft."

And 2005 is likely to be the year that Microsoft gets its story straight on search technology. "Microsoft needs to get a credible strategy for desktop search inside the Office suite and the network," said Jonathan Eunice, principal at Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H.

"Microsoft hates to be irrelevant; to not be a part of a customer's requirements," Eunice said. "The basic search function in Windows is deficient with respect to the market. Microsoft is about five or more years behind."

Also important is the broader issue of content management and building that into Office and the OS, Eunice said. "Microsoft feels it must drive new content into Office to get people to upgrade, and they have a huge problem getting people to upgrade."

This was last published in February 2005

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