What's Behind the Windows Server 2008 Delay?

Some analysts believe it's tied to Vista SP1

Microsoft published almost no details earlier this week with its announcement that Windows Server 2008's release to manufacturing (RTM) date had slippedfrom late this year into early next. Only vague explanations of needing to meet high quality standards were given, leaving most in the dark. Does the delay mean that Windows 2008 development has hit some kind of snag, and could more delays be coming?

IDC Analyst Al Gillen doesn't think so. Microsoft, he said, "Didn't give a very good explanation about why" there was a delay. Still, he continued, "I'm not so sure it's such a big deal, as long as RTM doesn't extend beyond the launch date."

That date is Feb. 27, 2008, the day that will see the much-hyped "LaunchWave." Now, Windows 2008 is in real danger of not being available for the event, which could be deflating for Microsoft.

"I was surprised, yeah, and frankly a little disappointed" in the announced delay, Gillen said. "We've been waiting for the product a long period of time, and once they [set] the launch date, it appeared [Microsoft] had the launch schedule well under control."

Microsoft, through a spokesman, said that the launch won't be affected by the delay. "This does not affect the joint Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 launch, scheduled for February 27,2008 in Los Angeles, CA. The launch, as well as the launch events taking place around the world, remains on track."

Gillen speculated on a possible reason for the delay, while emphasizing that he had no specific knowledge. He said that as Microsoft goes through the later beta versions -- Windows 2008 is currently in beta 3 testing -- that more customers look at the product and make suggestions for changes.This doesn't happen as much in the earlier stages of testing, Gillen said."If a really important customer or customers say you have to make a change to the OS," Microsoft is likely to listen and implement the change, even at the cost of pushing back a delivery date.

Another analyst surprised by the slippage is Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "I wasn't expecting another delay. I expected they were going to roll this" out in the earlier timeframe, Enderle commented.

Enderle, though, believes the timing of the delay is directly tied to another announcement Microsoft made on the same day: that Windows Vista SP1 was expected to RTM early next year.

Vista and Windows 2008 share the same codebase, and it's important that one version of the code not get too far ahead of another version. With the many changes coming in Vista SP1, Microsoft didn't want Vista's code to be too far ahead of Windows 2008's. "From the standpoint of servers, Microsoft would rather have [Windows 2008] at [Vista] SP1 level when it ships,"Enderle said.

Gillen agreed that the need to keep the code at roughly the same level could be a factor. "They can't afford to let the two code bases get too far apart."

Whatever the reason, the continued delays for Windows 2008 -- formerly known as Longhorn Server -- certainly take a toll on Microsoft's reputation, which already suffers from a perception that it can't make publicly-stated deadlines.

And if, for some reason, the RTM date were to slip again, it could be an ominous sign. Enderle does not anticipate another delay because, he said, Windows 2008 is now "Gated on [Vista] SP1's" release, and there is finally an established timeline, if not yet a very specific one, for the service pack.

Said Gillen, "I really would not expect them to delay it again. If they did, it wouldn't bode well in terms of how they would deliver this product."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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