Microsoft has launched Windows Server 2012 to general availability with a strong message that the operating system will capitalise on the growing importance of cloud and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) computing.
"This is one of the most significant transformations that IT has had," Windows Server and management product marketing general manager Mike Schutz said.
"Because of the confluence of the dramatic increase in internet-connected devices that are entering the market, whether those are corporate owned or employee owned, BYOD-type environments, all those devices are driving significant amounts of new types of applications."
Schutz continued: "That's driving an exponential increase in data – the amount stored is doubling every two to three years. All of those end up driving a huge of amount of demand for back-end systems, servers and networking gear."
Schutz explained how, when designing Server 2012, Microsoft was challenged to "rethink the role of the traditional operating system", focusing on what he referred to as the "cloud OS".
"We're focusing on delivering a consistent platform between Windows Server on premises, with hosting partners, datacentres and what runs in Microsoft datacentres with Windows Azure," said Schutz.
Schutz said Microsoft regards Server 2012 as the "cornerstone" of an IT strategy providing "one consistent platform", which can "make organisations more efficient and agile, and deliver a flexible set of services to end users".
Schutz also elaborated on how Server 2012's remote application and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) feature now has "advanced protocol so that it supports touch gestures, so you can deliver a very immersive, rich experience with a Windows 8 device that's not managed or corporate owned, but be productive from anywhere, on the devices you want to bring in".
This and other virtualisation techniques support what is an attempt by Microsoft to eat into VMware's share of the server virtualisation market, which last year measured 58 per cent to Microsoft's 26 per cent.
Early indications from end users seem positive, with Martin Gallington, senior vice president of IT at Menzies Aviation, describing Server 2012 as "a dramatic leap forward, matched by a simple, cost-effective pricing model".
Bardo Werum, senior vice president of infrastructure at Lufthansa Systems, said that the operating system "makes life a little easier for us", commending 2012's "higher availability and faster disaster recovery".
However, there is still ambivalence over Windows Server 2012's "simplified" licensing system.
Similar to Microsoft's cut-down licences for Windows 8 and Office 2013, the OEM-only Foundation, Essentials at $501 (£316), Standard at $882 (£556) and Datacenter at $4,809 (£3,029) versions may be easier to understand, but it remains to be seen whether less choice forces licensees' hands to spend more on features or account user limits that aren't required.
Windows Small Business Server, meanwhile, is being scrapped as part of this simplification.
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