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How will IT react to annual Server 2012 updates?

Microsoft plans a faster release cycle for its server OS, database and tools. How will IT take this news?

Microsoft has kicked off its annual TechEd show in New Orleans with a slew of back-end product announcements that may or may not be good news. The company is promising a faster release cycle for its server and tools products.

All told, Microsoft is delivering quite a few updates. It will release previews of the R2 versions of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 shortly and final code by year-end. It plans an upgrade to its cloud-based Windows Intune systems management service in the same timeframe.

This year will also see an update to its developer tools, dubbed Visual Studio 2013, and to its popular database SQL Server 2014.

There's quite a long list of upgrades and additions to these products, which I will leave to our Microsoft reporters. The issue for me isn't the upgrades - it's the balancing act of release cycles, something I've discussed in the past when it comes to the client.

The one thing the client and server have in common is that once the IT department gets the working right, the last thing they want to do is change anything. Testing can take between six and nine months or more, depending on the server application load. So, conceivably, people could be upgrading right as a new version comes out.

This simply won't fly. The most common version of Windows Server in the field, I've been told more than once, is Server 2003. Like I said, once people deploy something and get it stable, they don't want to mess with it.

The same will hold true for SQL Server. It has come a long way from its origins, and some of the new features in SQL Server 2014 look interesting. I'm particularly intrigued with the in-memory database engine and the support for a mixture of SSD and HDD drives in a storage scenario. But again, this is not something people will want to upgrade regularly.

Now, Visual Studio 2013 will be received and likely deployed quickly. The changes are additive to the older version, and should there be a problem, it would be easy for a customer to roll back to a prior version of VS. The same cannot be said for Windows Server or SQL Server.

I can see Microsoft wanting to keep software up to date with changes and advances in hardware. What concerns me is the potential for version confusion and people getting backed up and having chaos in the data center, where different servers are at different revision levels.

So, in this case, I'd like to hear reader feedback. Do Server and other server-side products need an annual upgrade, or should Microsoft continue on the track it has been on?

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