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The Other Guy's Turn

There's been plenty of attention on the Linux server market lately, but Microsoft's turn in the spotlight is pretty imminent. The first service pack for Windows Server 2003 is nearly ready; Microsoft has deployed it internally as a release candidate, and although there are some fixes yet to be done with application compatibility and on installs of the 64-bit version (which Microsoft considers a new OS and not just a service pack upgrade), it's clearly very close to the expected summertime rollout. The SP1 release is also more security-oriented, although it will ship with Windows Firewall off by default, and the security emphasis alone is bound to get this SP1 enough hype to make it an answer to all the recent Linux buzz for a while.

Whether ISVs and Microsoft partners will be ready for this rollout is another question, though. For all of Microsoft's testing, there's no way that the company can ensure compatibility with every server application out there in the market, so there are bound to be some glitches once Windows Server 2003 SP1 is released publicly. Microsoft's own test report notes that COM permissions are tightened up in this release, which is going to cause some funky behavior with applications, particularly custom-built apps. ISVs and Windows Server admins in the enterprise are going to need to test their rollouts pretty carefully before giving the final go-ahead if they're using custom apps.

How important is it to Microsoft that this SP1 release work out of the box? Depends on your viewpoint. Widespread failures or glitches would be a PR black eye, of course, but I doubt that's all that likely. It's more probable that SP1 problems will be at the usual level of Microsoft-uses-the-market-as-a-testbed bugs -- which the entire IT market is accustomed to. We'll know more once this hits the street, but if I had to lay down bets today, I'd say this is one Microsoft release that will probably go relatively smoothly. Do you think differently? Let me know.