Faster .NET 2.0, New Service Pack for Exchange

Steve Ballmer touts performance gains in .NET 2.0 and a new service pack for Exchange Server in his TechEd keynote.

Short on many new details and long on philosophy, Steve Ballmer's opening Tech•Ed keynote continued to push the vision of greater harmony between a company's information technology staff and developer staff, and how Microsoft developer and server platforms bring this unity about.

Ballmer didn't break any major new product announcements, but instead focused on broader themes emphasizing Microsoft's dominance in various platform, infrastructure, and developer market metrics. Playing to the recent uprising of disgruntled VB6 developers, Ballmer promised that he hears their concerns and that Microsoft is working not to leave them behind.

Much of the keynote focused on statistics. Citing benchmarks from pitting .NET 2.0 beta performance against .NET 1.1 and IBM WebSphere 6.0, Ballmer said that the current .NET 2.0 beta outperformed .NET 1.1 by 20 to 40 percent on the Sun WSTest 1.1 benchmark suite. The data also showed up to a 200 percent performance advantage over WebSphere 6.0.

At the same time, he cited data (from Microsoft's WorldWide DevTracker surveys) showing that .NET is the primary developer tool for 43 percent of developers compared to only 35 percent using Java as their primary tool. And going a step further, Ballmer's research on enterprise development usage showed that only 10 percent of large companies aren't using .NET for any development.

In the critical security arena, Ballmer continued with unsourced data showing Microsoft Windows has fewer security problems compared to various Linux server flavors. In this analysis, his data showed only one "high" priority security vulnerability year-to-date for Windows Server 2003, while showing in the same period that the comparable Suse 9 Linux Server had 28 "high" priority vulnerabilities and Red Hat 3 had 14 "high" priority vulnerabilities. Similar data for all server security vulnerability levels and servers configured primarily as Web servers also showed a lopsided advantage for Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

The other market data metric Ballmer stressed was the penetration Active Directory has made in the directory services space. While he acknowledged that AD adoption was initially slow, AD is in use in 86 percent of U.S. enterprise organizations. The next closest directory services system is also a Microsoft technology, the older Windows NT 4 domain system, checking in at 41 percent. What this data also shows is that many enterprises are using more than one directory services provider.

Minor Exchange Server Update in the Works
Ballmer's sole new product announcement is a new service pack in the works for Exchange Server, Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2, along with a related Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5. When released later this year, together these will provide Exchange users with up-to-date "push" style e-mail for their mobile devices, positioning Exchange and Microsoft's Mobile platform to better deliver push e-mail similar to the RIM BlackBerry.

The Exchange upgrade will be built into the core Exchange server and won't require any additional licensing costs, unlike third-party add-on servers such as BlackBerry that come at additional licensing costs on top of Exchange. A lengthy demo highlighted the security features and policy-based management for the devices, and Ballmer stated that there will be compatible devices from more than 40 OEMs this year.

Conspicuously absent from the keynote was any major discussion of the future Windows "Longhorn" operating system. Mike Hall, technical product manager for Microsoft Mobile and Embedded, provided the only Longhorn glimpse with a brief preview of filtering a long list of files by keywords and authors in a folder window. He also showed how in the folder's icon view, the user can zoom in from just the icon to a preview of the document contents.

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