April 24, 2003 6:55 AM PDT

Companies cozy up to Windows release

Server manufacturers will stump for Microsoft on Thursday, touting new customer wins and integration services for companies considering a move to Windows Server 2003.

During a San Francisco gala, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is slated to officially launch Windows Server 2003. Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Unisys are among the server makers expected to share the stage with Ballmer.

Unisys is one of a few manufacturers using the release of the operating system to launch new servers. Most other manufacturers are announcing the availability of the software on existing machines. Dell and HP also will tout new customers and services offers aimed specially at enterprise customers, while IBM plans to stick with its broad range of existing services.

Web hoster Digex plans to get into the services foray, announcing broad Windows Server 2003 support at its Laurel, Md.-based hosting facility. Digex also plans to extend hosting and services support for other upcoming Microsoft software, including Commerce Server and Exchange Server.

Chipmaker Intel will tout the importance of running 64-bit Windows Server 2003 versions on systems running Itanium 2 processors.

All the companies are expected to position their products and services around new branding. Last week, Microsoft rebranded its line of server software Windows Server System. The move is similar to the company's rechristening its line of desktop productivity software Office System. Microsoft is hoping to put less emphasis on individual products and more on the concept of a "platform" upon which companies can build technologies suitable for their line of business.

Windows Server 2003 anchors the branding, which also encompasses Application Center, BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Content Management Server, Exchange Server, Host Integration Server, Internet Security and Acceleration Server, Operations Manager, Project Server, Real-Time Communications Server, SharePoint Portal Server, SQL Server and Systems Management Server.

In another sign of Microsoft's increasing its ties between desktop and server software, Project Server and SharePoint Portal Server belong to both Office Sstem and Windows Server System.

Some customers appear to support this integration. Marshall Gibbs, chief information officer of Information Resources, described the SharePoint rebranding as an "encouraging" change in Microsoft's thinking about the needs of large enterprise customers.

"Moving the SharePoint Server to the Office team is one example of that," he said. "Microsoft is exploring an interesting strategy around centering Office on the desktop as the centerpiece for business intelligence-enabled team collaboration. The focus is on increasingly powerful tools in Office that are designed to drive business workers' ability to manipulate information and share it broadly together with a portal enterprise strategy.

Server wares
Dell on Thursday plans to reveal that it already has launched 9,000 PowerEdge servers worldwide running Windows Server 2003. The customers involved include the Nasdaq Stock Market and Kentucky's Department of Education. The Round Rock, Texas-based company also will talk about Dell Canada's piloting of Windows Server 2003 in an operation that responds to about 18,000 customer inquiries a day.

"In our labs, a Dell PowerEdge server running Windows Server 2003 performed approximately 250 percent faster than an equally configured server running Windows NT," Pete Morowski, Dell's vice president of software, said in a statement.

The PC maker will offer Windows Server 2003 across its entire PowerEdge line, emphasizing cost benefits, particularly for customers moving from Windows NT 4 Server. Microsoft estimates that about 35 percent of Windows Server customers use 7-year-old NT 4.

Dell also is set to reveal plans to offer Itanium 2 servers later this year.

Services-focused IBM doesn't plan to go beyond the services already bundled with its servers. But it will release new benchmarks for eight- and 16-processor x440 servers running the Datacenter version of Windows Server 2003. Like Dell, IBM plans to make Windows Server 2003 available across its line of Intel-based servers.

Rather than a broad range of services, Gateway will tout new manageability features. From Thursday, the Poway, Calif.-based company, which is focused on small businesses, will offer a new version of Gateway Server Manager. The Web-based product is intended to help technology managers diagnose problems, reboot computers or manage updates.

Earlier this month, Gateway launched two new rack-mount servers. The computer maker plans to offer Windows Server 2003 on these new models and its entire line of servers.

Unisys plans to use the Windows Server 2003 event to launch a new multiarchitecture server. The ES7000/560, which supports up to 106 Intel processors, can be configured with a single 32-processor Xeon partition and two 16-processor Itanium 2 partitions. Businesses also can add as many as 42 blade servers.

Customers do not necessarily need buy new hardware to running Windows Server 2003. Most versions of the software can be purchased as upgrades for existing computers.

Windows Server 2003 will be available in four basic versions, with one of those being new. Microsoft also offers two 64-bit versions for Itanium 2 systems. Pricing for the new versions also reflects changes in how Microsoft licenses the software. Besides the server software, buyers must also purchase client access licenses, or CALs. Previously, Microsoft offered CALs on a per-seat basis. But under the new model, the CAL can either be purchased per computer or user.

Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition will sell for $999 with five CALs or $1,199 for 10 CALs. The Enterprise Edition will sell for $3,999 with 25 CALs. Microsoft would not provide pricing for the Datacenter Edition, as that version of Windows Server 2003 must be purchased with a new computer. Microsoft is introducing a new server product, Web Edition, which will sell for $399.

Additional CALs will be available for $199 in packs of five, or $799 for 20. Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server CALs will cost $749 for five and $2,669 for 20. Microsoft also requires what is called an external connector for users connecting from outside the network. The cost is $1,999 for Windows Server 2003 and $7,999 for the Terminal Server version.

 

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