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One man with a grasp of Microsoft's overall product direction is the vice president for servers and tools, Bob Muglia.
CNET News.com's sister site ZDNet UK grabbed some time with Muglia at November's TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain, to hear why Microsoft has begun announcing 64-bit only versions of its software and about its plans for managed services, virtualization and other matters.
Q: Microsoft has made some key announcements this year and hinted at future directions for 64-bit, including comments that some products in the future will be 64-bit only. Where do you see 64-bit heading in the next few years?
Muglia: About 18 months ago, we brought out a 64-bit version of Windows Server and we have been on a continuous progression to ensure that our applications first and foremost run properly on 64-bit. And there are a few places, especially where device drivers are involved, where there are still issues.
We've also been launching 64-bit applications. The first major application that we brought out that was 64-bit enabled was SQL Server 2005, and we are seeing pretty substantive adoption of the 64-bit version. That was basically because there was first and foremost no downside for a company to use it. It has the scalability, it is transparent. The only difference is that now you have many gigabytes of memory.
When Exchange Server 2007 ships shortly, it will be the first major server application that Microsoft produces which is only 64-bit. That was a rather difficult decision for us to take, but we decided as a company that by offering 64-bit only, we could offer customers really substantive benefits in availability and performance.
The differences in the operational characteristics of Exchange 2007 versus previous versions are considerable, particularly in the amount of memory it can take advantage of--for example, in storage. With this sort of intensive disk-focused application you needed very substantial, SAN-based storage systems which could run very highly available Exchange implementations. Because of its 64-bit capabilities, its demands on storage are much less. The opportunity is there for people to have less cluster-focused disk applications. We are seeing that.
What we chose to do within Microsoft, for example, is move from a mailbox of 200 megabytes per user to a mailbox of 2 gigabytes. We are able to do that at the same cost per user.
Looking into the future, we will ship Longhorn (the next version of Windows Server) in the second half of next year, and we will ship a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. That will be the last time we ship a 32-bit version. From that point, the next release, which will be roughly two years later, that product will only be available as 64-bit.
Where are you going with Microsoft Managed Services?
Muglia: In time, some of our customers will want to acquire IT as a service. It is different from a consulting service, and I need to distinguish between delivering software as a service versus a standard consulting service--a customized service.
We think this trend is going to happen in a major way. It has been discussed quite a lot since 2000. At the time, it was not successful because the infrastructure wasn't ready, and clearly, the software wasn't ready. It is clear that this will happen, and we need to ensure that our software is used in that process.
We have done this ourselves and taken on a couple of customers, and we have learned some of the shortcomings of our software. Some of the things we have learned include that our software needs to work transparently across the internet to make it work. Some things work very well already, like Outlook 2003 versus Exchange.
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