The Windows Server Notebook


September 3, 2013  4:23 PM

After Ballmer: What is Microsoft’s strategy for the future?

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

There is little sense in adding to the avalanche of criticism that cascaded down on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer since he announced he was leaving the company. The strategic missteps he made in his tenure as CEO the past 13 years are well documented. Why he couldn’t find a single technology visionary inside or outside the company with whom he could formulate a compelling strategy for the future remains a mystery.

The more important issue at hand is finding a successor with such a vision and, as importantly, clearing a political path for him or her to execute that vision. The difficulty here, one Microsoft’s major competitors don’t have to deal with, is finding such a visionary that also can manage at $70 billion-plus software company, a company with a rough and tumble political environment.

There is an excellent chance such a candidate doesn’t exist. Inside the company the only one who could grow into that role is Satya Nadella, currently Microsoft’s executive vice president of the company’s Cloud and Enterprise group. He has the job title that perfectly positions him for making some of the tough decisions involving all the pieces of Microsoft’s cloud strategy (think devices and services), with a Masters in computer science he has the technical chops to walk the walk and, at 43, he is young enough to have a good feel for where the new technology trends are coming from.

Oh, and one added benefit to Nadella taking the throne — as my colleague Diana Hwang points out — he has the right amount of geek chic to sell that vision to younger IT professionals coming up through the ranks.

Outside the company, there are few to no prospects that might realistically be interested in taking on the challenge, despite the potentially huge financial rewards if he or she is successful. It is doubtful that a Lou Gerstner will emerge as he did in the early 1990s to save IBM, or a Steve Jobs coming back in 1997 to do the same for Apple.

Microsoft could go the conservative route and hire from within, someone like Craig Mundie, a proven, professional manager who wouldn’t rock the boat and carry on with what Ballmer has put in place. But that is not what Microsoft needs. It needs someone who has the guts to trade in the existing boat for one that is faster and more agile.

The new CEO, likely an outsider, will have help Microsoft  rethink what it wants to be, which most recently is to be a devices and services company. As part of that process, one of the toughest decisions he or she must make is dropping the Surface tablet/desktop. It is a noble attempt at trying something innovative, but it has inspired few to make any sizable investments.

If the new CEO can’t dissuade the company from dropping it completely, at least he or she could stop selling it directly and let Asian-based, high-volume suppliers sell it. That would at least give the company something of a customer base to sell Windows 8 to. Microsoft now, and never has, had a promising future as a systems hardware company. But with the acquisition of Nokia, a new CEO would have trouble getting out of the business of selling devices.

The second tough decision, related to the first, is to release the version of Office for iPad the company has had locked up in the vault for well over a year, according to sources inside the company. Ballmer personally laid down the law that the iPad version of Office would not ship at the same time as the version for Windows, for fear it would hurt sales of the Surface.

Well, that’s all a moot point now. As we come up on the one-year anniversary of the Surface, the company has sold between one and two million units. Microsoft likely would have sold millions of copies of Office for iPad in that time. Microsoft has a much more promising future as a software company.

In fact, it may have a more promising future as a software and services company. With devices out of the way, Microsoft would do well to think about what Web services it can deliver, most importantly, for Office. If the company is going to ask corporate users to pay $100 a year to switch to the Web-based version of Office, it would be nice if the company could deliver something to users other than their own-cloud-based data. Delivering new value-added services for Office, such as better analytics for instance, might entice both existing and new users.

Such services, I would assume, would be delivered from Windows Azure which would offer Microsoft a boost to that platform, which sorely needs more cloud-based applications.

We’ll save for another time what the new CEO must do to address the corrosive nature of Microsoft’s in-house politics.

Email the author of this post at escannell@techtarget.com.

September 3, 2013  2:41 PM

August in review: the most popular Windows Server tips and news

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

In our monthly feature, we highlight the most popular content from the previous month and share it with you.

Last month, our readers were most interested in content that covered Patch Tuesday, PowerShell 4.0 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition gets pricing hike
The news of a 28% increase to this version of Windows Server 2012 R2 left many IT pros wondering about the reaction from potential customers and the impact it would have on enterprise adoption.

Ballmer’s retirement surprises few IT pros, saddens even fewer
As Steve Ballmer announced plans to retire from Microsoft in the next 12 months, questions came up about who would take the helm at a company in the midst of a reorganization and what his legacy would be.

Task automation gets easier with PowerShell 4.0
Changes in the newest iteration of this scripting language has multiple changes to help admins automate tasks, including a new feature called Desired State Configuration and new parameters.

Exchange, Internet Explorer vulnerabilities fixed in Patch Tuesday
Microsoft released fixes for 23 vulnerabilities in August’s Patch Tuesday, including a familiar critical security update for Exchange and 11 critical updates for IE.

BYOD sync gets help from Windows Server 2012 R2 Work Folders
Work Folders, a new feature in Windows Server 2012 R2, helps admins synchronize data for offline use in multiple devices and can be enabled through PowerShell or Server Manager.

What content from August was most helpful for you? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter at @SearchWinServer.


August 27, 2013  2:38 PM

Windows Server 2012 R2 released to manufacturing

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft hit an important milestone this week as it finalized Windows Server 2012 R2 ahead of its Oct. 18 launch.

In the past, IT shops with MSDN or TechNet subscriptions could begin downloading the bits as soon as Microsoft said the operating system hit the RTM stage.

This time around, everyone will have access to the final product on the same day. This is because Microsoft will complete the final validation checks after this stage ahead of its release, meaning the company can prepare day-one patches if necessary.

Windows 8.1 has also reached the RTM stage.

The company says it packed more than a year’s worth of innovation into Windows Server 2012 R2, which boasts new features like Work Folders and an expanded PowerShell.

What do you think of the news surrounding Windows Server 2012 R2? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


August 23, 2013  5:34 PM

Twitter reacts to Steve Ballmer’s retirement

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

On Friday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he would retire at the conclusion of a search to replace him, within 12 months.

Check out this collection of tweets reacting to the news. Click here if you have trouble seeing it.

 


August 16, 2013  3:41 PM

Microsoft backtracks on another Patch Tuesday update

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

For the second time this week, Microsoft is backtracking on a security update from the latest round of Patch Tuesday fixes.

MS13-066, an important update for Active Directory Federation Service (AD FS), was pulled because of customers reporting functionality issues after installing the update. Microsoft said the update was being pulled because it could stop AD FS from working, but there’s no official word yet on what’s causing the issues.

This is the second update the company has pulled since releasing this month’s Patch Tuesday releases. Microsoft backtracked on a critical Exchange update earlier this week after it didn’t test the update in a dogfood environment before releasing it.

One Exchange MVP called the pull the “latest in a long line of cock-ups.” Other experts suggested that pulling the critical update suggested that the quarterly release of Exchange updates was at risk.

What do you think of these updates being pulled? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


August 14, 2013  3:05 PM

Windows Server 2012 R2 available on Oct. 18, new purchases Nov. 1

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Earlier this week, Microsoft set a price for Windows Server 2012 R2. Now it has a release date.

The company said in a blog post that it will make available the latest server operating system on Friday, Oct. 18 for “eligible customers.” New purchasers will be able to get Server R2 just two weeks later on Friday, Nov. 1.

Microsoft that day also plans to release not only Windows Server 2012 R2, but also Windows 8.1, Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 and Microsoft Intune.

The simultaneous launches raise two important questions. One, what does this mean for Microsoft’s overall product release strategy? And two, how can the company serve up all that data without being severely bandwidth constrained? We’ll have to see about that last part in October.

Read about the changes to Windows Server and System Center here, and check out our two-part Q&A with Brad Anderson, CVP of Windows Server and System Center.

What do you think about the release dates? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


July 31, 2013  6:53 PM

Popular Windows Server definitions you need to know

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

As we move into the second half of 2013, we decided to look at some of the most popular Windows Server definitions from the year so far. We highlighted the most popular terms and additional information that will help you have a better understanding of how each term fits into the larger Windows Server picture.

Internet Information Server (IIS)

Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) is a web server that includes programs to build and manage web sites. It also includes support for search engines and web-based applications to access databases.

The latest iteration of IIS is IIS 8, which has features to help users build large-scale web hosts. The previous version of IIS, IIS 7, included updates for user rights, the installation process and troubleshooting.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012 (SCCM 2012)

System Center Configuration Manager 2012is a product that lets admins manage the deployment and security of devices and applications in an enterprise. SCCM 2012 discovers devices connected on a network and installs client software on each node.

SCCM is  a solid mobile device management option for enterprises. It takes a “user-centric” approach to application delivery and management while providing endpoint protection. Configuration Manager can also be an option for admins looking for something that goes further than Exchange ActiveSync.

Active Directory (AD)

Active Directory is Microsoft’s trademarked directory service that automates network management of distributed resources, user data and security. It is designed for distributed networking.

When Windows Server 2012 was released, AD received a number of updates. Windows Server 2012 can now support AD cloud deployments. Microsoft also made significant fixes to help AD work well with Windows Failover Clusters, including more flexible organizational unit administration and AD cluster protection from deletion.

Group Policy Object (GPO)

A Group Policy Object  is a collection of settings in AD that define what a system looks like for a group of users. GPOs are associated with select AD containers, including domains, organizational units and sites.

With the release of Windows Server 2012, GPOs received major changes. New GPOs were introduced for Windows 8 and for controlling the Setting Sync feature. There were also new GPOs in the Group Policy Update option in the Group Policy Management Console.

Domain controller (DC)

A domain controller (DC) is an assigned role for a server in a computer network. Primary domain controllers (PDCs) manage the master user database for the domain. Backup domain controllers (BDCs) are other servers in the network that balance a busy network’s workload and step up as a PDC is the PDC server fails.

In Windows Server 2012, a new AD feature changes the way DCs are provisioned. The deployment Wizard, which is built on PowerShell, promotes cloud-based servers to DCs and makes it easier for admins to perform large-scale AD deployments.

What definitions have been most helpful for you this year? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


July 5, 2013  2:34 PM

Busy July Patch Tuesday expected, six critical fixes

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

Microsoft released its monthly advance security notification for Patch Tuesday, and admins can expect a number of critical fixes for July.

The company delivered seven total bulletins with six of those marked as critical, which affect almost every supported version of Windows and Windows Server. The vulnerabilities touch potential attack vectors, like .NET Framework, Silverlight, Office, Visual Studio and Lync.

The lone important bulletin for July’s Patch Tuesday addresses an elevation of privilege vulnerability, which affects Microsoft security software.

The bulletins for July appear to be following the trend of an increase in Patch Tuesday fixes this year. There were 51 fixes as of June, up from 43 fixes during the same time last year.

What do you think of July’s Patch Tuesday bulletins? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


July 2, 2013  8:39 PM

Microsoft releases Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials preview

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

This week, Microsoft delivered a preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, a version of Windows Server geared toward small businesses.

The company also released a preview of the Windows Server Essentials Experience server role for Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and Standard editions.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is designed to help SMB customers virtualize environments with ease, said Jason Anderson, the group program manager for Windows Server Essentials team, in a company blog post.

Some of the most noteworthy features include the capability of guest VMs to be virtualized on a Windows Server Essentials host server, deploying Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials in the cloud with Windows Azure Virtual Machines and improvements to cloud integration services. The products will also address the BYOD phenomenon enterprises face.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials will likely ship when Windows Server 2012 R2 ships, near the end of the year.

Have you used these previews? What do you think of them so far? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


July 1, 2013  7:16 PM

Microsoft drops TechNet subscriptions

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

Microsoft this week said it would discontinue offering TechNet subscriptions in the coming months.

New subscriptions will no longer be available after Aug. 31, which should give users time to plan for the move. Users who have already purchased subscriptions have until Sept. 30 to activate them.

The company also released an updated FAQ  in conjunction with the news. Microsoft said it decided to shut down the service because it offers free evaluation software and resources. After it discontinues subscription service, the company said it would continue offering free services to users, including Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Microsoft also said users with existing TechNet subscriptions can renew them for one year, but it must be done before the Aug. 31 deadline.  The company will continue offering MSDN, which is a pricier, developer-oriented option for product evaluation.

Ed Bott at ZDNet notes the move may be a response to years of attempts to crack down on piracy.

What do you think of Microsoft’s decision to get rid of TechNet subscriptions? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


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