Even as Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software firm, prepares to globally launch Windows Server 2008, its latest computer server software, in the first week of March, enabling users to potentially cut server costs by up to 40%, India’s information technology (IT) managers say they are still evaluating the benefits of the new offering and will take up to a year to decide whether to upgrade.
One of the core differentiators that Longhorn, as the Windows Server 2008 product was codenamed during development, is the ability to integrate what is called virtualization as part of the offering. Virtualization refers to the technology that allows multiple operating systems and applications to run on the same hardware, thereby eliminating the need for different computers to run different servers.
“The Indian market is still at a very nascent stage in virtualization adoption and current vendors are keen to explore new virtualized products. (But) there will be a significant increase in the adoption of virtualization as a technology trend only in three-four years,” said Naveen Mishra, senior research analyst at tech research and advisory firm Gartner Inc’s India offices.
According research firm IDC, short for International Data Corp., by the end of this year, there should be more han 3.5 million installations worldwide of Windows Server 2008, of which 1.3 million will be in the US.
In India, Microsoft declined projections of sales of its latest operating server offering, which competes with products from Red Hat Inc. and SuSE Linux. “In India, we have a 75% market share of new server shipments,” said Pallavi Kathuria, director, server business group, Microsoft India Pvt. Ltd, adding that she expected market share to be maintained in the coming months after the Windows Server 2008 launch. “Our total server installed base here is around 200,000 units.”
As per IDC’s Asia-Pacific enterprise server tracker of the third quarter ending September 2007, server shipments in the first three quarters last year were at 100,329 units in the region, a growth of 17.5% over the same period of 2006. The Indian server market is expected to grow at an annual 17% over 2007-2011, with shipments of 253,185 units in 2011.
Analysts say that while end-users are awaiting the Windows Server 2008 launch, “ground realities are yet to be observed once the product is out there. Microsoft will have to make a footprint in a space that is dominated by the single player VMware,” said Gartner’s Mishra. VMware Inc. is the world’s dominant supplier of virtualization software.
Indeed, retail chain Shoppers’ Stop Ltd, which has around 100 servers running on different platforms including Linux and Windows, said it is evaluating Longhorn and will not look at deployment in the next three months.
The firm is getting into virtualization in a big way and in the last three months has bought over 20 virtualized servers, which it will expand in the future.
“Longhorn appears to be a lot more resource hungry than other Windows servers and we are yet to see its benefits. Better utilization of computing resources and how it will run on a virtualized environment is what we are looking for,” said Arun O. Gupta, chief technology officer at Shoppers’ Stop. “What we will look at in the future is how well Longhorn scales up and how well it competes with new products that VMware will release.”
“Apart from the technical parameters, enterprises today also look at various other parameters like power, space, heat dissipation and analyse the total cost of ownership,” said Sankalp Shrie, senior manager, enterprise computing products research, at IDC India.
Windows Server 2008 comes five years after the Windows Server 2003, which had an upgrade in 2005, was launched. While the server software has been released to computer hardware vendors who bundle it together with their wares, the product will be commercially available in the first week of March and will cost around the same as the 2003 product: between $650 (Rs26,000) and $700.
Though Microsoft did not share the Longhorn numbers it expects to sell, it said in its beta phase in India, around 7,895 copies have been distributed and Microsoft has conducted nine customer pilot installations (of 273 done worldwide) in India.
Telecom firm Tata Teleservices Ltd will look at deploying Windows Server 2008 after three to six months. “We have done the proof of concept but are not ready to make a commitment yet. We have over a hundred applications and have to make sure that at least half of these applications that are user-interfacing are compatible with the new server,” said Naveen Chaddha, chief information officer at Tata Teleservices, adding that the Microsoft offering has security features more powerful than other operating systems.
The concern about compatibility of applications is shared at auto firm Hero Honda Motors Ltd, which currently uses around 18 Windows 2003 servers. “We will go for upgrades only next year. Our biggest concern is that all our applications should be able to run on the server,” said Vikas Malhotra, an IT manager at Hero Honda.