Windows Server 2008 make Linux an attractive option

Some of the changes in the upcoming release of Windows Server 2008 are a response to features and performance advantages that have made Linux an attractive option to Microsoft customers.

One of these is the fact that Linux has less of a surface area, which led customers to believe that Linux is inherently more secure, Bill Laing, the general manager for Microsoft's Windows Server division, told eWEEK in an interview at its annual Windows Hardware Engineering conference here.

Surface area is the term IT managers use to discuss the overall resource footprint of a computer operating environment, including the amount of code, features, ports and other network resources that offer potential avenues for security attacks.

"Having less surface area does reduce the servicing and the amount of code you have running and exposed, so we have done a lot of work in 2008 to make the system more modular. You have the server manager; every role is optional, and there are more than 30 components not installed by default, which is a huge change," Laing said.

"We also have server core, which doesn't have the GUI [graphical user interface], so I would say that is a response to the options people had with Linux that they didn't have with Windows," he said.

There are also several computing tasks in which Linux is particularly strong, Laing said, pointing to compute clusters as one. Microsoft has responded to this factor with Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, for which all the third-party applications are now being moved across, he said.

Another area of competition from Linux was on the Web serving front, particularly Internet-facing Web servers and hosting, and that was the drive behind Microsoft's push to significantly improve IIS 7 (Internet Information Services).

"We did a lot of work over the incremental work done in [Internet Information Server] IIS 6 and giving the tools to hosters so they had packages. But, really, the thrust behind IIS 7 was to respond to Linux and I think we have had an effect if you look at the data on Internet-facing Web server numbers," Laing said.

Iain McDonald, the managing director for Windows Server, is also not worried about the competitive threat posed by leading Linux distributor Red Hat.

"I am not particularly worried about Red Hat, which makes a product—or rather gets free development groups to make a product—that they sell for about the same amount of money as Windows Server. It's not the biggest worry area for us. Frankly, I'm more interested in solving customer problems than worrying about what they're doing in a certain space," McDonald told eWEEK.

Asked about the delay in Microsoft's hypervisor technology, code-named Viridian, and whether this was a competitive disadvantage, McDonald told eWEEK that doing it right was more important than rushing something to market.

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