SharePoint Services Role Removed from Final Windows Server 2008

As Microsoft sources first quietly noted on its product teams' blogs on Monday, and as the company is making clear today, one of the roles that had been planned to ship as part of Windows Server 2008, and that was being tested with the current Release Candidate 0, now will not be shipped with the final product. Instead, admins will be able to download the SharePoint Services 3.0 directly from Microsoft for no additional charge.

"As we're getting closer to release, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is returning to how it was previously available to Windows Server 2008 customers," wrote senior product manager Julius Sinkevicius on Monday. "Specifically, we are going back to making it available as a separate download that is available to customers at no additional charge."

Including the service with WS2K8 had been part of Microsoft's plan to make collaboration tools, such as company blogs and wikis, more prominent. But with ever increasing skepticism about the company leveraging its strong position in operating systems to engineer a potentially unfair advantage in other markets, it may have reconsidered whether the means it chose to advance that end remains viable.

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Regardless of whether a feature is available separately for free, inclusion or non-inclusion with the final product makes a world of difference with regard to its legitimacy as a Microsoft project. Witness the history of PowerShell, a project whose very existence was denied by some at Microsoft, and whose relevance to the operating system was discounted by its opponents within the company...until it decided to make it a shipping part of WS2K8.

Of course, there's also the sad irony about the fact that many only became aware of the service's inclusion with the product just this week, upon learning of its removal.

But another problem the removal raises concerns Server Manager, the system's key administrative tool. After you install WS2K8, Server Manager keeps track of the various roles which it plays - the basic functions it performs, such as serving Web pages, deciphering DNS addresses, managing data clusters, and dispensing IP addresses to clients. Up through RC0, SharePoint Services 3.0 was one of those roles. Installing a role is made simpler by Server Manager by handling the selection of all the underlying services it requires. For instance, since SPS 3.0 requires .NET Framework 3.0, choosing SPS sets up .NET and other underlying libraries and services for installation.

Now that SPS isn't a formal role, admins who've downloaded it from Microsoft's Web site will have to take into account all of the services it needs prior to installing it, which messes up Server Manager's beautiful plan. For now, the revised installation procedure appears on SharePoint developer Bill Baer's blog, and you'll note it isn't exactly pretty.

Right now, the closest thing to a technical explanation for why the move was made comes from a company evangelist, Neil Hutson, on his personal blog. "For people who currently have the RC0 version of Windows Server 2008, there is going to be a change when they move to RC1, but not a significant one," Hutson wrote today. "Down the road, this will aid in the maintainability of the Windows Server and the Windows Microsoft Update process moving forward."

There is no indication from the Windows Update product team today that the decision to remove SDS 3.0 as a role either benefits or impacts the updates process.

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