Server overload?

Have you taken a look recently at the number of server-side products Microsoft sells? One peek at the list at will knock your toupee off. Let’s just run down the list: .NET Framework, Antigen, BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Essential Business Server, Exchange Server, Expression, Forefront Family, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Edge Security, Forefront Management Console, Forefront Security for Exchange, Forefront Security for SharePoint, Forefront Stirling, Forms Server, Groove Server, Host Integration Server, Identity Lifecycle Manager, Office Communications Server, Project Server, Search Server, SharePoint Server, Small Business Center, Speech Server, SQL Server, System Center Family, System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Data Protection Manager, System Center Essentials, System Center Mobile Device Manager, System Center Operations Manager, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Virtual Server, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team System, Windows High Performance Computing, Windows Server, Windows Server Update Services, Windows Storage Server.

Server overload?

Looking at the list again I’m sure there are whole packages missing from it: I can’t name one yet but I have that nagging feeling. And please note, some of the items on the list are available in multiple versions – “Windows Server” covers a large range of product capabilities and licensing. Ah yes, licensing – just how many of these products require CALs (client access licences) too?

So why am I presenting you with this enormous list? Well, for quite a simple reason. It wasn’t so long ago the Microsoft server-side offering was known as BackOffice and consisted of Windows Server, SQL Server and Exchange Server. And, umm, that was about it really. For sure there was a smattering of smaller server-side roles to worry about as well, such as IIS, but IIS no longer appears in the big list above. That’s part of Windows Server now which, as I hinted above, is available in multiple versions – Server; Enterprise Server; Datacenter Server; Web Server – all in two different installation modes, Normal versus Server Core. And the page covering that tells me about Internet Information Services, Hyper-V services, Network Access Protection services, Active Directory Rights Management services, Terminal Services Gateway and Remote App, Server Manager, Windows Deployment Services. Shall I go on? Those are just a few bits from one of the big lists, and each would have been a full-blown product in the past.

The problem is, back when we just had BackOffice, I had a reasonably strong working knowledge of the whole lot. I wasn’t ever really a SQL Server guru but I could install it, fix it, and knew whether it was happy or sad. Today, that’s simply impossible and, not only for me, but for you too. You might reasonably argue you don’t need to know all these products, and you might well be right, depending on your company’s structure and its changing needs. But you’re going to need a substantial number of them, I’d wager, if you’re trying to deploy a solution based around the current technologies.

You’d need at least Server, Exchange Server and SQL Server for data storage and some sort of antivirus solution, and that’s just for starters. Are you getting the best from Office 2007 on the desktop unless you have SharePoint and Groove running too? Now look at the management infrastructure, and the tools required for that. And we haven’t even moved outside your local network – add in the mobile worker and we need Network Access Protection server, Data Protection Manager and so forth. Do some development work and the whole world of Visual Studio lands in your lap.

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