With today's release of Microsoft Office 2010 to business users, IT managers are likely doing some serious number-crunching to see if it's worth it for their organization to migrate to it. But there's also a whole range of Microsoft enterprise software that Redmond wants you to consider besides Office.
I sat in on a half-day workshop in San Francisco on Tuesday devoted to a deep dive on a whole range of Microsoft apps including Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 as well as Office 2010. Our guide was Rand Morimoto, president and CEO of Convergent Computing, an IT consulting firm and a Microsoft reseller. He is also a contributor to Network World's Microsoft Subnet blog.
System upgrades are always a tough call for organizations to make, balancing the cost, complexity and disruption of a transition with the possible productivity improvements. But Morimoto, in detailing some of the features of the new applications, is trying to knock down some of the objections to such a migration.
Here are five takeaways from his presentation worth your consideration:
1) Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 add features that negate the need for organizations to buy third party software.
For instance, Microsoft Rights Management Services scans e-mails for secure content that needs to be encrypted before being sent. Previously, the end user had to take an extra step to encrypt the e-mail before hitting send, which did not always get done, Morimoto lamented.
"Nine times out of 10 when you tell an end user to do something they don't do it, so security doesn't work if the user has to do something," he said.
Now in Exchange 2010 or SharePoint 2010, the e-mail is scanned and encrypted in transit if necessary without the sender having to do anything, nor the recipient.
2) Faster packet traffic on wide area networks (WANs) or local area networks (LANs) reduces the expense of third party traffic accelerators. Packet speeds have increased by 20 to 40 times in Server 2008 coupled with Windows 7 on the client device, he said, cutting the time of a data replication task to four minutes from 15 before.
"This is a huge cost decrease," Morimoto said. "We had one customer that was going out and buying LAN accelerators, a $120,000 purchase order, but we saved them that $120,000."
3) Why buy VMware for virtualization when Windows Server 2008 includes Hyper-V?
Morimoto acknowledged that VMware has had a substantial lead in dominating the virtualization hypervisor market, but that Microsoft has now caught up.
"A year ago, there were a good half dozen, dozen things that VMware still did better than Hyper-V," he said. "With the release of Windows 2008 R2 and the release of Hyper V R2, in terms of feature parity, I find them to be identical."
For instance, Hyper-V now offers Quick Migration and Live Migration capabilities that make it easy to move a virtual server to another physical server without skipping a beat for maintenance, or automatically in the event of a server failure.
But while Hyper-V largely matches VMware for hypervisor capabilities, what Microsoft adds is better system management capabilities, in the form of Microsoft Systems Manager, and tighter integration of Hyper-V with related programs such as Exchange and SharePoint, which can be virtualized.
"The future of virtualization is not going to be Hyper-V versus VMware, it's all the stuff that wraps around it," he said.
Finally, Hyper-V's advantage over VMware is that it's included with Windows Server, saving the end user the expense of buying separate VMware licenses, which Morimoto said could reach a half million dollars for some enterprises.
4) Better control over distribution of Office 2010 documents such as Word. A feature called Active Directory Rights Management Systems gives an IT administrator file-level encryption control of documents, again, without the need for third party software.
A simple point-and-click interface allows an administrator to select the names of people from Active Directory and allow person one to copy, edit, print or send documents, but person two, with restricted access, can view it, but can't edit, copy, print or forward it.
5) An easier path to migration to Windows 7 by enabling backwards compatibility with Windows XP. If an end user has software applications optimized to run in XP, the Windows 7 OS allows the computer to run a virtual copy of XP in "Windows XP mode."
But one recent critical change makes the process smoother still, Morimoto said. Previously, a user could only run XP mode in the background if their hardware had a VT chipset, which only comes on newer computers. As of about a month ago, he said, XP mode can run on computers lacking a VT chipset, which makes it possible for organizations to run Windows 7 and XP on hardware that is as much as five or six years old.
Robert Mullins is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. He has been writing about technology from Silicon Valley for more than a decade. He has covered such beats as network security, servers, storage, software development, telecommunications and, of course, Microsoft, for a variety of publications, most notably the IDG News Service and Network World.