Microsoft's 2009-2010 Roadmap

A raft of new products are in the queue for delivery during the second half of 2009 and into 2010.

What does Microsoft have on tap over the next 18 months?

Windows 7, for starters. But you already knew that. At this point, Windows 7 and its celebrated feature set have been discussed to death. It's an important deliverable, but it's just a taste of what Microsoft has coming.

Major new releases of Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 are slated to ship later on this year, at about the same time as Windows 7. These products-along with a trio of releases scheduled for 2010-will bring a dizzying array of new features and partner opportunities to the table.

Product Name: Windows 7
Previous Version: Windows Vista (formally released Jan. 30, 2007)

It's official. Microsoft says that Windows 7, the not-so-long-awaited sequel to Vista, will ship on Oct. 22. True, Redmond has had a torturous relationship with release dates in the past. This time, however, most folks believe that Windows 7 will both be on time and on target.

What's new? Plenty of stuff, including improved "multi-touch" and handwriting-recognition features; support for virtual hard disks; a revamped Windows Media Center; a new Windows Action Center (the former Windows Security Center); enhanced support for solid-state drives (SSDs); and a lot of other amenities.

Product Name: Windows Server 2008 R2
Previous Version: Windows Server 2008 (released to manufacturing [RTM] Feb. 4, 2008; retail availability Feb. 27, 2008)

Windows Server 2008 R2 is slated to ship in October of this year, with RTM expected later this month. Don't let its name fool you: R2 is much more than an incremental upgrade to its predecessor. For one thing, it's a 64-bit-only proposition: Redmond doesn't plan to deliver a 32-bit version.

Consistent with its 64-bit nature, R2 brings a lot to the table virtualization-wise. It supports "Live Migration": the ability to move a running-or live-virtual machine (VM) instance from one hypervisor host to another. It also supports failover clustering (via Cluster Shared Volumes) under Hyper-V. Other R2 amenities include enhanced power-management features, new Active Directory capabilities-including a long-overdue "Recycle Bin" for deleted objects-and radically expanded scalability. Like SQL Server 2010, R2 can support as many as 256 processing cores. Redmond also claims to have massaged the R2 release, focusing on accelerating boot time and improving I/O performance.

On a side note, the next rev of Microsoft's standalone hypervisor-Hyper-V Server 2008 R2-is also expected to ship later this year.

Product Name: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Previous Version: Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 (released to business customers Nov. 30, 2006)

The transition to the newest version of Exchange should be relatively painless for shops that have already upgraded to Exchange 2007. Those still sitting it out on Exchange 2003 are going to have to bite the same bullet that they managed to dodge nearly four years ago.

Exchange 2010's list of amenities should help to at least soften the blow. For example, Exchange 2010 boasts an improved Outlook Web Access (OWA) experience across all-including non-Internet Explorer-browsers. It's a seemingly simple pleasure, but it's one that OWA users-and the Exchange admins who are beholden to them-will justly celebrate: for the first time since Microsoft delivered OWA, way back in Exchange 5.5, it should look and act basically the same across IE, Safari and Firefox.

In addition, new features like Just a Bunch of Disks (JBOD) support and database-level failover capabilities promise to simplify Exchange storage management. Gone, for example, is the frustrating literalness of Exchange storage management-the need to configure and manage-and simultaneously be aware of-cluster or RAID configurations. On top of this, the Exchange team promises faster data recovery at both the data store and mailbox levels, and-thanks to new I/O optimization, which enables the use of low-cost SATA drives for Exchange storage-cheaper overall storage costs.

Other niceties include Voice Mail Preview, a summary text-based transcription of voice mail messages; new call-answering rules, which provide email-like management for incoming calls; the ability to move mailboxes online while users access them; and a new Exchange Control Panel (ECP) that gives users self-service administrative capabilities. ECP, especially, should take some of the load off of Exchange admins.

Product Name: Microsoft Office 2010
Previous Version: Microsoft Office 2007 (available to volume license customers Nov. 30, 2006; retail release, Jan. 30, 2007)

There's a lot to like in Office 2010, starting with Office Web. That offering brings Web-based flavors of Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications (Redmond already offers a Web-based version of Outlook via Exchange's OWA component). Microsoft is attempting to parry Google Apps by exposing basic office-productivity applications in a highly collaborative context. Significantly, Microsoft plans to sell Office Web both directly and via reseller partners.

Elsewhere, the revamped Office 2010 will support an International Organization for Standardization-compliant version of Microsoft's Office Open XML document format. It will also include a host of usability amenities, such as a screenshot-capture facility; a new "Print" interface; more granular author-permission capabilities; expanded SmartArt Templates; and an enhanced Protected Mode feature to safeguard against malicious documents.

Product Name: Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Previous Version: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007

This April, Microsoft officially removed SharePoint Server from the Office family.

Not to worry, however: the newly enfranchised Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 promises to be as Office-friendly as ever. A beta version will ship as a community technology preview (CTP) later this year, with RTM slated for the first half of 2010.

SharePoint Server 2010 is shaping up to be a disruptive release. It will run only on 64-bit Windows Server 2008 and, moreover, will require 64-bit DBMS connectivity-in the form of either SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server 2008. Similarly, it won't support IE6.

SharePoint Server 2010 introduces many new features, including PerformancePoint Services, which are dashboarding and scorecarding capabilities; a "faceted search" capability; improved interoperability with third-party content management systems; expanded support for Microsoft Silverlight; enhanced and expanded support for Microsoft's FAST Search technology; and increased support for Safari and Firefox Web browsers.

The forced shift from 32-bit to 64-bit server and database underpinnings could prove to be an additional boon for integrators and reseller partners. In spite of the SharePoint Team's best efforts, customers will almost certainly require migration or integration assistance as they move to SharePoint 10.

Product Name: Project Madison

R2 is one of a pair of interim SQL Server 2008 releases - the other being "Project Madison," an ambitious high-end data warehousing play - that Microsoft hopes will boost SQL Server's profile as a central platform for enterprise information management initiatives. Also on deck for 2010 is Project Madison, a high-end version of SQL Server. That offering - which is based on technology that Microsoft acquired from data warehousing specialist DATAllegro -- will give SQL Server a massively parallel processing (MPP) capability, permitting partners to build scalable data warehouse configurations larger than 25 TB.

Product Name: Office Communications Server 2010

Previous Release: Office Communications Server 2007

The next version of Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS) is also slated to ship next year. That product, the successor to Microsoft's existing OCS 2007 offering, is shaping up to be the centerpiece of Redmond's ambitious unified communications and collaboration (UCC) strategy, in pursuit of which it recently notched a high-profile partnership with HP. UCC -- an umbrella term for instant messaging, presence, voice telephony and video telepresence, conferencing, and other features - is a potential partner and reseller boondoggle, involving multiple technology domains (e.g., UCC-ready networking, telephony, video, and security components) and application integration or interoperability legwork.

Product Name: Project Gemini

There are plenty of additional partnering opportunities on the SQL Server BI front. Along with MDS, Microsoft is prepping a new R2-centered analytic workbench, dubbed Project Gemini. Gemini, an Excel-based data store, is designed to interoperate with both R2 and Microsoft's forthcoming SharePoint 2010. It's expected to ship next year.