At first, I thought, it is some kind of joke. But then I read it on several sites and even on a Microsoft blog. Windows Server 2008 SP1 is released. Yeah right, it was released together with Windows Server 2008 RTM. The good thing is we don't have to wait so long for this SP as we waited for Vista SP1. The bad thing is I am deeply confused as to what is going on at Microsoft at the moment.

Iain McDonald, Director of Project Management for Windows Server, tries to make sense of all of this. If you are a historian whose field of specialty is Microsoft's service packs, then you probably will scarf down this post. If you are just a Microsoft customer, then, you'll be even more confused after reading this. Actually, there is no explanation in this lengthy post at all.

Well, of course SP1 for Windows 2008 wasn't really released. It is just that Windows Server 2008 RTM was renamed to Windows Server 2008 RTM SP1. The idea behind this seems to make clear that Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 are in some ways aligned.

Windows Server 2008 SP1

While this naming might make sense from a developer's point of view, it is certainly the strangest thing Microsoft ever did regarding product names. What all this shows is that speaking of service packs doesn't make sense at all anymore. Why don't they just call this thing Windows 6.1 Server?

But perhaps there is something different behind this. In many IT departments, it is an unwritten law that one always has to wait for the first service pack before you can even start thinking of deploying a new Microsoft OS. Do they want to make us believe that there is no reason to wait for the first service pack because it is already released? It is hard to believe that this could really work. For me, it seems as if MS is actually pleading that Vista and Server 2008 are really really ready for prime time now.

If this is  just one incident, it might not be worth mentioning. But the confusion about release dates continues. First, they make this big secret out of the release date of Vista SP1, downplaying its importance by telling us that we have Windows Update anyway. Then it turns out that Vista SP1 contains 390 hotfixes that were not published before. Every week a new release date was passed round. Then suddenly they announced that it is released to manufacturing, but tell customers that it is not yet released to the public, but will be released in Mid-march. A few driver issues with SP1 made Microsoft's decision makers quite nervous. Some days later, they released it anyway for business customers because they got again a public scolding. And now they release Server 2008 SP1 even before anyone gets the chance to ask when the first service pack will be released. Too many release dates for my taste.

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Is it because the big bosses at Microsoft are too busy chasing Yahoo? Or are they super nervous because of the bad public opinion of Vista? Or perhaps, it is because they are worried to be without Bill Gates now? I hope it is not the latter; otherwise I might have to change the motto of my newly designed logo soon to "For Linux admins". 😉

13 Comments
  1. Lukas Beeler 15 years ago

    Isn’t this kinda similar to XP x64, which was also released with the SP1 designation, and shared the WS2003 codebase? Which is why XP x64 SP2 is the same as WS2003 SP2?

    (I’ve never used XP x64, so i don’t know the details).

  2. Aaron 15 years ago

    I think you’re making mountains out of mole hills. This release of 2008 as SP1 demonstrates the maturity and quality of the code base.

  3. Todd 15 years ago

    This is obviously a marketing ploy. Since most of the industry won’t touch a Microsoft OS until the first service pack has been released microsoft is just pushing up the adoption process by adding the sp1 tag to the initial version.

  4. Aaron 15 years ago

    As mentioned before, you’re making mountains out of mole hills. This simply reflects the fact that Vista and Server 2008 share the same codebase. If you remember back to the days of Windows 2000, the desktop OS and the server OS both had the same service packs because they were essentially the same OS with different features enabled. Windows XP and Server 2003 were similar except for the fact that they decided to release the desktop OS a year before the server OS. Now we see the same thing with Vista and Server 2008: the desktop OS came out 1 year (approx.) before the server OS.

    Bottom line: when they release SP2 it will be the same service pack for Vista as the one applied to Server 2008. The OS is intelligent enough to pick and choose the components of the SP that apply to it’s particular version.

    So really, Vista could be called Windows 2008 Desktop edition. This really clarifies the update process.

    See http://blogs.msdn.com/iainmcdonald/archive/2008/02/15/windows-server-2008-is-called-sp1-adventures-in-doing-things-right.aspx

  5. Lukas, was Windows XP x64 named Windows XP x64 SP1 when it was released?

    Aaron, I agree that it is only a molehill. But many molehills can add up to a mountain. It is this whole pattern of behavior that shows that Microsoft operates with a specific uncertainty recently. I know that Vista SP1 and Server 2008 share about 70% of the code. But, in my view, that is not a reason for its new name. These naming decisions are made by Microsoft’s marketing. They usually have nothing to do with technical considerations. It is quite obvious that Microsoft wants to tell us that Server 2008 is already as mature as if there was a already service pack. But I doubt that customers can be ticked so easily.

    Casey, I linked to that article in my post. As I said in the text, I didn’t find a real explanation there.

    Todd, thanks, “marketing ploy” was the word I was searching for 😉

  6. Aaron 15 years ago

    I must respectfully disagree. I don’t think the naming convention was decided on because of marketing and Microsoft’s desire to trick us. Did you read the link I referred to?
    I’m also puzzled by your reference to Microsoft operating with uncertainty. Are we still talking about a server OS that hasn’t officially been released to the general public yet? I think you’re referring to the Microsoft of 10 years ago.

  7. Greg 15 years ago

    The way I play it. MS marketing is just that, Marketers. (I think MS has way to many marketers with way to much time).
    Are you going to let some marketers think for you. I think not. I choose to listen to all sides. Especialy the technical side, the actual Microsoft?
    No doubt it is a hinderance that our biggest eyes & ears are through MS marketing. Which has become more and more unclear & sketchy (the MS designed iPhone Box comes to mind). And with an obviouse ploy to SELL. You can’t blame them its there job. Almost like lawyers.
    So, my point is. See it for what it is. MS marketing Stinks. But thankfully MS is not in the business of marketing. They are in the business of Programming & such.
    Yeah, ask a Programmer to sell, now that would be funny. Oh wait, perhaps thats the MS of 10 years ago.

  8. Aaron 15 years ago

    Greg, good point 🙂 I think their other business units outside of the desktop and server OS stretch beyond their expertise. They’re good at making operating systems for the general business user enviroment.

  9. Aaron, I am glad you disagree. I always enjoy a controversial discussion. 😉 I read the article you referred to, but it seems like you didn’t read my article because I mentioned Iain McDonald’s “explanation” there. Some say that Microsoft acted arrogantly 10 years ago. I never agreed because I couldn’t make out any difference to other big IT companies. But recently, Microsoft’s behavior is quite the opposite of arrogant. That’s what I call uncertain. I spent quite some time with Server 2008. It made a stable impression on me. A service pack is an update though. So to calling this thing Server 2008 SP1 still doesn’t make sense to me.

    Greg, I agree. Many say that Microsoft’s success is mostly based on their marketing machinery. I never understood how such a myth could arise. I always wonder how a company can be so successful with such a bad reputation.

  10. Aaron 15 years ago

    Yes I did notice that the page I linked to was the same one had already referred to after I commented. I still think that the people that are going to need to be aware of Service Packs on servers are administrators who should be up to date on what’s going on… mainly that both Vista and Server 08 are from the same code base so that code base is on SP1. I guess it just seems like techs looove to be critical of Microsoft. If they didn’t call it 08 SP1 other techs would complain that MS isn’t being consistent. They would say that Vista was a pre-release and that Server 08 was the real deal…..you could go round and round…. again mountains out of mole hills 🙂
    Thanks for the good discussion.

  11. Mark Wilson 15 years ago

    It’s quite simple. In the beginning was a product codenamed Longhorn. The client and server editions forked and the client was released as Windows Vista. Now the product is fully baked and we get the server edition. SP1 for Vista brings the client codebase back inline with the server product, and to avoid confusion, that is shown on the System Properties as SP1 – but not in any marketing materials (so how exactly are Microsoft trying to confuse anyone).

    Some dinosaurs will still say “wait for the first service pack” – for WS08 that will be SP2. The same service pack will be the second one for Vista – same codebase remember. Personally, I don’t recall a dodgy service pack in Windows Server since NT4 SP6 and I’m running WS08 as my client OS.

    Incedentally, the Microsoft view (which I’m not entirely convinced on) is that service packs are irrelevant with regular Windows updates.

    Mark

  12. Mark, IT pros don’t read the marketing materials, anyway. The point is that we are now waiting for SP2 which implies that there already was an SP. This is intricate marketing and thousands times better than this hero campaign. Not with the best will in the world can I make out a technical reason for this naming. Names are only for humans not for machines.

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