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Microsoft partners see opportunities at Windows Server 2008 launch

Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 are three of the most significant products in Microsoft history, CEO Steve Ballmer told partners.

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft today formally launched Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, with CEO Steve Ballmer calling them "three of the most significant products in Microsoft history."

Microsoft partners said the products -- especially Windows Server 2008 and its server virtualization technology, Hyper-V -- will help them reach new customers and expand offerings to existing clients.

During a demonstration Wednesday morning at the Nokia Theater, a Microsoft product manager showed how a Hyper-V user can add a new virtual server to an environment with just a few clicks.

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Launch event will help partners sell Windows Server 2008

In the past, it took "about 30 to 40 minutes" to set up Windows Server to accept a virtual server installation, said Charley Ballmer, systems architect for Dallas-based Microsoft partner CompuCom (and distant relative of the Microsoft CEO). "Now you can activate that in 15 seconds, and that time savings is huge."

However, that convenience will be deferred a few more months, at least for value-added resellers (VARs) wanting to use "shipping" software -- Hyper-V will not be generally available for several months.

The key for Microsoft partners selling and deploying Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V is to help clients use the products to improve their business -- and not just virtualize for the sake of virtualizing, said Tyson Hartman, vice president of enterprise technology solutions for Avanade, a Seattle-based global systems integrator (SI).

"Customers have to realize this is evolutionary, not revolutionary," Hartman said. "They need to adapt it relative to their own business needs."

In his morning keynote, Steve Ballmer re-emphasized Microsoft's mantra for "dynamic IT," which he defined as technology that enables businesses to do things they couldn't do before, not just improving existing functions. That strategy will help Microsoft compete with VMware, the server virtualization market share leader, said Jason Frye, functional architect for Microsoft partner BMC Software in McLean, Va.

"Microsoft's going to carve out a big part of the market with Hyper-V," Frye said.

Ballmer also touted Network Access Protection (NAP), the new built-in security feature of Windows Server 2008. Several independent software vendors (ISVs) who attended today's launch said NAP would drive interest in their own network access control (NAC) products. But Haig Balikian, senior systems consultant for Pasadena, Calif.-based Microsoft partner S and L International, said most customers will be happy with NAP alone.

"There are a lot of people that don't want to spend on a third party, so having it built in is a big benefit," Balikian said.

The launch event, "Heroes Happen Here," also included demonstrations of SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, as well as a partner pavilion and day-long breakout sessions for end users and developers.

Despite the focus on Windows Server 2008, "the real compelling scenario for customers" is all three products, Hartman said. He and other partners said that SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 do not sport as many new features, but those features are now faster, more manageable and more accessible.

"SQL Server 2005 was a big release," said John Powers, president and CEO of Digipede Technologies, a Microsoft ISV partner in Oakland, Calif. "It had been too long. This one is more incremental, which is what people want."

"The stuff was there before," said Alan Kiraly, CEO of Microsoft partner Enterprise Informatics in San Diego, Calif. "But it wasn't nearly as easy."

Windows Server 2008 released to manufacturing earlier this month. Visual Studio 2008 is already available, and the release of SQL Server 2008 has been delayed until the third quarter of 2008.

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