Microsoft server and tool upgrades demand CIOs' attention

Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Visual Studio 11 undergo refresh cycle

By Juan Carlos Perez and Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service |  Application Management

CIOs and IT directors tracking the barrage of major upgrades for Windows and Office also need to stay tuned to the refresh cycle for Microsoft's servers and tools, including Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Visual Studio 11.

The 2012 version of Windows Server, the version of Windows that runs on enterprise and data center servers, is "quite possibly the most significant release of Windows Server ever," packing hundreds of new and improved features in areas like virtualization, networking, storage, user experience and scripting, according to Microsoft.

IDC analyst Al Gillen believes it will be "a dynamite product."

"We don't normally use superlatives like that, but from what we've seen, based on what's going to be included, such as the new release of Hyper-V, and together with System Center 2012, Microsoft has a very attractive package," Gillen said. Windows Server 2012 is in beta, while System Center 2012 became generally available in April.

Gillen foresees a popular scenario in which customers choose Windows Server 2012 as a virtualization host for their Windows software infrastructure.

"That scenario allows customers to get Windows Server 2012 and its benefits into their organizations very quickly, and it also keeps them from having to deal with a lot of porting, migration and testing of the apps, because they can take these apps, whatever they are, and virtualize them in the Windows Server 2012 environment," he said.

There will also be take-up of the product, albeit at a slower pace, as a formal migration upgrade for Windows Server 2003 and 2008, which will require more time-consuming compatibility testing, he said.

On the enterprise database front, SQL Server 2012, which was released in final form at the beginning of April, features improvements in application availability, in data warehouse and data analysis performance, in data visualization and presentation, in data integration and management, and in tools for application and database developers, according to Microsoft.

Industry analyst Curt Monash from Monash Research calls SQL Server 2012 "basically adequate" for a variety of scenarios especially for organizations where the Microsoft database is already the primary one, and a "good choice" in particular for OLTP (online transaction processing) jobs.

"If you just want to put up a little database for a small project that depends a lot on your organization's Microsoft skillset, it might be easier to use SQL Server," he said.

However, if a company isn't tied to the Microsoft software stack, there are better choices for analytics, like Sybase IQ; data warehousing, like Teradata; and website tasks, like MySQL and NoSQL, he said.

Equitable Life of Canada uses SQL Server for all of its databases except for one. It mostly uses SQL Server 2000, but it also has SQL Server 2008.

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