With TechEd 2012 now over, guest blogger David Klemke reflects on the future for Windows Server 2012 (and Windows 8).
I think we can all remember Microsoft's horror story that was Windows Vista, a product long delayed that upon release scared the majority of end users into hanging onto their XP systems for as long as they possibly could. That was the consumer experience, but in the backrooms it was a different story.
From the pristine halls of large data centres to the dark CAT5 spider webs of server closets, Vista's sister release, Windows Server 2008, enjoyed adoption rates way above what was expected. Traditionally desktop adoption rates dwarf server rates due to the amount of testing required to upgrade a server, but with Vista the exact opposite was true. Windows Server 2008 saw widespread adoption and for those who made the switch upgrading to R2 and then to Windows 7 was a no brainer. Seeing what I've seen at all the sessions at TechEd Australia 2012 I can't help but feel that we might be in for a repeat performance.
Now, I don't want to rain on the Windows 8 parade too much as I do believe it has a lot of merit for specific platforms. As a table OS it's quite incredible and I've struggled to find anyone who'll argue otherwise. On the desktop however it's a very different beast and I have to admit that when I was using it, the Modern UI didn't really seem to flow in the way its Windows 7 predecessor did. I know I'm not alone in this sentiment and the feeling I get from the IT market is that Windows 8, at least on the traditional desktop, could very well be heading for another Vista moment. The great tablet experience might help smooth that transition, however, as people get more familiar with the interface through means other than their traditional PC.
Windows Server 2012, on the other hand, is bar none the most impressive version of Windows that I've seen to date. There are significant advances in functionality for the operating system itself as well as the vast majority of supporting applications. Even if you only look at it from the small subsection of functionality that I've covered here over the past few days it's plain to see how easy it would be to sell any system administrator on the benefits of moving up to Windows Server 2012.
Of course selling the technology is only half the battle and the real numbers will be highly dependent upon where everyone is in their current upgrade cycle. However I don't believe that's a big problem for Microsoft as it's clear that its vision for Windows Server 2012 isn't so much as improving what we already have as in providing us a platform that we can use long into the future. The Cloud OS nomenclature might just be a bit of sexy marketing speak for the high level executives out there but the truth is that we're seeing an increasing trend away from applications being tightly coupled to the operating system that's underneath it and Windows Server 2012 is Microsoft's first step in this direction.
Attendees from TechEd 2012 aren't going to go back to their various organisations and implement sweeping changes right away but I feel confident in saying that the majority of them are going to start their plans to migrate to Windows Server 2012 as soon as possible in order to take advantage of an increasingly cloud centric future.
It would be one thing for Microsoft to continue its dominance in the enterprise market -- that's been a pretty big staple of the business since Redmond first released Advanced Server all those years ago -- but it's obvious now that the company firmly believes in the cloud future and what that entails. Its dominance in one platform no longer naturally translates to a competitive advantage in another (remember those antitrust cases?) and Microsoft has recognised this. You won't find any grand tales of increasing openness being spouted by their PR but things like support of Node.js, Windows Azure toolkits being made available for all mobile platforms and better support for Linux in Hyper-V 3.0 means that the traditionally closed ecosystem is starting to look increasingly available no matter what angle you approach it from.
This is all well and good but what does it mean to you: the end user, the system administrator or just the interested onlooker? For starters if you're looking at a platform for an application or service Microsoft's latest offering is very compelling, boasting feature parity with its major competitors, including those with cloud offerings. If your daily job consists of working with Windows-based servers you'll be glad to know that your job will only be getting easier when you migrate to the 2012 suite, even if you're only a small operation with a handful of servers. For application developers the amount of work that Microsoft has put into frameworks and readymade services means that you can get a whole lot more done in a drastically reduced amount of time. It really is that exciting.
The last four days of TechEd Australia 2012 have been an incredible experience and it's been great to see all the latest offerings from Microsoft. I really can't wait to put all the features I've blogged about over the past few days through their paces as I'm sure I can make a convincing argument to begin making the move to the Windows Server 2012 platform. I've also shifted my view of Microsoft's cloud considerably; I've worked with it previously and at the time found it wanting. The improvements that come as part of the private cloud offering using the System Center suite and the new features of Windows Azure are now at a stage where competitors are going to have to make a very convincing argument to make me want to develop on their cloud platform.
Hopefully the insights I've brought to you over the past few days have proved useful or piqued your interest in the Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure platform. As someone who'd only had a cursory look at the upcoming features of Windows Server 2012 the last few days have been a real eye opener to me, exposing me to the numerous possibilities that the platform will provide. If you're itching to know more I'd heartily recommend checking out some of the presentations on the TechEd site and, of course, firing up your TechNet/MSDN account and giving it a once over for yourself.
Visit Lifehacker's TechEd 2012 Newsroom for all the news from the show.
David Klemke is covering Windows Server 2012 for Lifehacker using his ASUS Zenbook WX32VD.