Revisiting Whidbey, Yukon, and Beyond

Here''s an overview and analysis of the latest developments in Microsoft''s server and tools products.

Revisiting Whidbey, Yukon, and Beyond
Here's an overview and analysis of the latest developments in Microsoft's server and tools products.
by Peter O'Kelly

Tech•Ed, June 6, 2005

It has been almost five years since Microsoft unveiled its .NET strategy at PDC 2000, and nearly two years since it announced details about Whidbey, Yukon, and Longhorn at PDC 2003. FTP has provided detailed coverage along the way, including a four-part series in 2004 covering Microsoft's past, present, and future platform strategies (see Resources).

This week's Tech•Ed conference is in many ways a major milestone for Microsoft's product strategy, especially for its server and tools products. I'll provide an overview of the latest developments, with a focus on three themes: the degree to which the new Microsoft systems work together, how well Microsoft is doing in terms of bringing its vision to fruition, and some areas in which Microsoft has not yet fully delivered on its earlier announcements.

Tech•Ed's list of products and technology topics reads a bit like an encyclopedia (see Resources), but some of the main themes include:

  1. Updates and firm release dates for Visual Studio 2005 and .NET Framework 2.0 (together previously code-named "Whidbey"), along with SQL Server 2005 (previously code-named "Yukon"). The target release dates are well within Microsoft's most recently stated goal (second half 2005), although some of the features expected in the first release of Visual Studio 2005 won't be immediately available (the full Team System tool set, specifically).
  2. Elaboration on Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative and related policies such as the Common Engineering Criteria (see Resources), which all Windows Server System products are now required to support. These initiatives ensure Microsoft products all support the same services and policies for management, operation, security, and product updates.
  3. Features and release dates for near-term products including BizTalk Server 2006 (with extensions for Business Activity Services and Business Activity Monitoring, for example) and Commerce Server 2006.
  4. Some initial details on Office 12, the code name for the next major release of Office (expected before the end of 2006), along with updates for Visual Studio Tools for Office. More specifically, Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office System (VSTO) will now provide support for Outlook managed code add-ins that will greatly simplify development of Office-centered applications (for example, business process and content lifecycle management).

Microsoft is also focusing on high-level themes that encompass both the Tech•Ed 2005 developments and the Longhorn-era updates expected to be announced at PDC 2005 this September. The task- and role-oriented themes include:

  1. Design & build: continuing the focus on connected systems and .NET.
  2. Deploy & operate: delivering dynamic IT based on Microsoft's model-driven Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI).
  3. Act & integrate: enabling what Microsoft has termed "The New World of Work" (see Resources for an overview), and bridging the Windows, Office, and Visual Studio systems to empower both end users and application developers to more flexibly and productively connect people and information to get work done.

With this context established, I'll analyze Microsoft's progress relative to its previously announced strategy and product plans.

Assessing Microsoft's Systemic Synergy
Although Microsoft's expansive (and dynamic) product catalog can be conceptually overwhelming, the company's strategy of focusing on three core systems—Windows Server System, Microsoft Office System, and Visual Studio Team System—offers significant "integrated innovation." Within Windows Server System, for example, the fact that most of the individual server products now rely on SQL Server for storage means developers and system administrators can work with fewer subsystems and APIs, and can also exploit SQL Server for data management, backup/recovery, and distribution.

Similarly, the new model-driven tools in Visual Studio 2005 Team System are designed to make the components and services within both Windows Server System and Microsoft Office System accessible to mainstream application developers. In another Office-related development, the new XML file formats planned for Office 12 will greatly simplify many application development tasks (such as integrating Office and back-end resources). Clearly, Microsoft's three core systems are closely aligned, and the degree to which they work together is extensive and rapidly increasing.

An Interim Progress Report
Tech•Ed 2005 is a major milestone for Microsoft, but it is just one of many milestones on Microsoft's mission to bring to fruition the vision it unveiled at PDC 2003. Overall, Microsoft has made impressive progress, although its target schedule projections slipped more than once. In fairness to Microsoft, it should be noted that the target dates were always qualified with "We'll ship it when beta customers tell us it's ready" comments, and Microsoft also had to address changing market expectations along the way, such as the significantly increased focus on application and system security during the last several years.

Whidbey and Yukon are arguably a year later than Microsoft originally projected at PDC 2003, but the delays have not put Microsoft at a major disadvantage relative to competitors such as IBM and Oracle. The degree to which Microsoft's products have embraced .NET has also varied considerably since PDC 2000, but a growing number of products across all Microsoft's key systems now support .NET. These include BizTalk, SharePoint, SQL Server, Live Communication Server, and other members of the Windows Server System line of products; Visual Studio 2005 Team System for mainstream application developers; and VSTO and specialized tools such as the Information Bridge Framework for Office-oriented developers.

So Microsoft has made significant progress toward realizing its PDC 2003 vision, and the momentum will continue to build over the next few years. As more Microsoft products exploit the new XML-related features and analysis, integration, and reporting services supplied with SQL Server 2005, for example, Microsoft-focused application developers will have fewer, more consistent, and more powerful tools to work with.

What's Next
In some important areas, Microsoft is just getting started. Visual Studio 2005 Team System, for instance, is Microsoft's first foray into the model-driven tool category that has historically been dominated by vendors such as IBM (Rational). Other facets of Microsoft's Distributed Systems Initiative will leave Microsoft in an increasingly competitive relationship with systems management vendors such as Computer Associates and IBM (Tivoli).

Returning to the question of where Microsoft has not yet fully delivered on its earlier announcements, Microsoft has made significant changes to its federated identity strategy, having recently published a document on its vision for an "identity metasystem" (see Resources). The new vision represents a major departure from the Passport-centered identity model Microsoft described at PDC 2000, and it is a much more pragmatic approach for today's customer requirements. Microsoft's communication/collaboration-related products also still represent a work-in-progress, although its acquisition of Groove Networks and appointment of Ray Ozzie as a Microsoft Chief Technical Officer will certainly accelerate progress in this key information-worker domain.

Other parts of Microsoft's product line that will see significant advances over the next few years include Exchange, SharePoint, and Microsoft Business Solutions (e.g., Great Plains), and of course the entire Microsoft product line will eventually be refreshed to exploit new capabilities in Longhorn (expected during the second half of 2006).

About the Author
Peter O'Kelly (e-mail:; blog: is a senior analyst with Burton Group's Application Platform Strategies service.

About the Author

Peter O'Kelly is a senior analyst with Burton Group's Application Platform Strategies service. Reach Peter by e-mail at, or view his blog at

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