Microsoft Delays Windows Server 2008, Needs 'More Time to Bake'

In the clearest sign to date that not all is well in the state of Redmond, Microsoft cheerfully announced this morning that the release date for Windows Server 2008 is being pushed back to Q1 2008.

Citing the delay as a part of an "open and honest dialogue about the development process of a product of this magnitude," a spokesperson for the Windows Server development team posted on its company blog this morning, just after 11:00 am Eastern time, that WS2K8 will likely be one of the features of a rollout event that was already scheduled for February 27, originally slated to feature Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

The reason, the spokesperson said, had something to do with barbecue.

"Why? Well, as you know, Microsoft's first priority is to deliver a great product to our customers and partners," the spokesperson wrote, "and while we're very happy with the feedback we're getting and the overall quality of the latest product builds, we would rather spend a little more time to meet the high quality bar that our customers and partners deserve and expect." Then quoting something program manager Alex Hinrichs told her, she added, "It's like a brisket. It just needs a little more time to bake."

With businesses already uncertain as to whether to consider undertaking a costly migration from older versions of Windows, today's announcement could be a huge setback for Microsoft. Unlike corporate desktops, which can be upgraded in record time (under just one year), servers are often upgraded along with companies' network infrastructure.

Because those upgrades typically take place in five-year cycles, this delay impacts many enterprises that are still stuck with Windows 2000, having never made the switch to Windows Server 2003.

But the spokesperson's comment about needing more time to bake, or gel, or otherwise come together may be accurate, if what we've seen in our tests of WS2K8 Beta 3 is indicative of what others are experiencing. The new server prominently features a radically reformed role installation mechanism, which further automates the process of adding system services to a server, over and above what was already introduced in the "Manage Your Server" wizard of WS2K3.

In our tests, though, while some roles' services had an easy time installing themselves, they had a virtually impossible time registering themselves. For instance, common sense would tell veteran admins to promote the domain functional level before installing services such as DNS.

As we found out repeatedly, however, using DCPROMO to promote the level to the new Windows Server 2008 level (which still must be done manually through the command line) results in the DNS service, once its role is installed, not to contain the appropriate entries for resolving local domain names, causing mail services not to be able to send to local addresses.

Typically, encountering problems such as this one is the whole point of a beta process; in fact, veteran testers consider it a good thing to find the errors that lurk in the system prior to the RC phase. But the creation of "public betas" and their subsequent association with trial software has led to the need among many companies -- apparently Microsoft included -- for software that's relatively bug-free even though they are reluctant to ensure that it's bug-free.

Today's news comes (curiously) in the wake of widely disseminated numbers published by IDC on Monday showing the installed base of Windows Server-endowed systems worldwide climbing 2% in the last quarter over the previous one, to 67.1%. Linux' share declined 0.3% of a point during that same period.

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