Computerworld ran an interesting survey about Windows Server 2008. According to these numbers, it seems that Server 2008 adoption might be faster than Vista’s. However, in my view, one has to consider a couple of differences between both operating systems. All in all, I don’t believe that Server 2008 will be more successful than Vista.
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For example, 63% responded that they plan to adopt Server 2008 “at some point”. This number might seem high, considering that many IT departments indeed plan to skip Vista according to my survey. However, there is a fundamental difference between deploying a desktop OS and a server OS. For many organizations, moving to Vista would mean having to replace all Windows XP machines with Vista within a certain time frame. Managing and supporting two different desktop operating systems for a longer time is usually not a good idea. It stresses help desk personnel and admins as well.
I remember quite well when we moved from Windows NT to Windows 2000/XP. We ran into countless issues, just because we had two different desktop systems to support. A common problem was whenever end users switched between two desktops with different Windows versions. Often their user profiles were messed up. Once we started deploying XP, getting rid of all NT machines became our top priority.
With our servers, it was very different. We only updated a few servers because of the huge hardware requirements of Windows 2000 Server. In most cases, when we bought a new server, we installed Windows 2000, and kept the NT servers running until we scrapped them. Thus, it is easy to say that most IT managers will adopt Server 2008 at some point. Sure, the next new server we will buy will run Windows Server 2008. Why not?
I also found it quite revealing what features are of the most interest. 73% said that security matters most, 69% named better performance and 64% said that Active Directory role / Group policy improvements are important. Well, if security is so important, why not also deploy Vista then? Yes, security on a server OS is more important than on a desktop OS. However, this shows that security really matters for IT departments. Therefore, I am quite convinced that Microsoft’s investments in an overall improved Windows security will pay off in the long run. All this Vista bashing will be forgotten soon. More important for Microsoft (and for us admins) is that the (justified) Windows bashing due to security shortcomings seems to be history now.
I must say that I am quite surprised that 69% want Server 2008 because of better performance, considering the fact that Server 2008 and Vista share the same code base and most people believe that Vista performs badly. I don’t know what the respondents had in mind when they were thinking about Active Directory improvements. It is hard to believe that it was RODC (Read Only Domain Controller). There are a couple of other AD related features such auditing enhancements, fine-grained password policies and Active Directory snapshots, but it is a bit strange, I believe, that more than two thirds would deploy Server 2008 because of these improvements.
In my view, Server 2008 has only one real killer feature (leaving security aside) and that is Hyper-V. The fact that only 24% plan to use Hyper-V is probably only because little is known about its stability and performance yet. I somehow think that this might change soon. Maybe IIS 7 is also a killer feature, at least if you consider the improvements over IIS 6. We are still counting on Linux plus Apache though. I doubt that this will change in the near future. For us, what’s most important is the fact that there are great Open Source CMSs that run best on LAMP systems.
It is interesting to note that IIS7 is not among the top five reasons why the respondents in this survey are considering deploying Server 2008. Even the self-healing NTFS improvements (43%) seem to have outranked IIS 7. Server Core is fourth with 45%. Although I already spent quite some time with testing Server Core, I am not yet sure if I should like it or not. At the moment, I can only imagine of using it in a virtual environment since it requires less RAM than the GUI edition. The better security because of its smaller footprint is no reason for me to live without a graphical interface. Security is important, but there are limits. Anyway, like Vista, Server 2008 offers a myriad of improvements. This overview article links to all posts about new Windows Server 2008 features I already covered on 4sysops.
So does this survey show that Server 2008 will really do better than Vista? I don’t think so. The reason why there is no Server 2008 bashing is very simple. There are many bloggers and journalists who have a strict opinion about Vista, simply because they have used it themselves, which makes them think they are Vista experts. There are many who went through all these compatibility issues and they just had to release their anger and disappointment somehow.
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However, Server 2008 is only something for IT pros and they are more interested in technical matters than the crowd. Also, Vista paved the way for Server 2008 because most compatibility issues are already solved now. From a technical point of view, Vista and Server 2008 are very similar. So in my view, it doesn’t make much sense to bash Vista and praise Server 2008. In the long run, neither the bashing nor the praises will have a significant influence on the adoption of both operating systems. The fact that Vista’s adoption is better than Windows XP’s when it was released shows that, for most organizations, it is just business as usual. They move to the new release when they are ready for it, no matter what furious bloggers and skeptical analysts have written about it a year ago.