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Serving up a solution

Serving up a solution

With the imminent release of Microsoft’s Windows Essential Server Solution, the server operating system market is set for a shake-up.

While virtualisation and blade technology have shaken up the server market, little copy has been inked about server operating systems. Yet, with Microsoft due to launch its Windows Essential Server Solution – which combines both Small Business Server (SBS) and Essential Business Server (EBS) – in early November, the server operating system market is sharply coming into focus.

For some industry observers, particularly those in the Microsoft camp, the software giant’s game plan appears set to shake up a market, which according to Gartner, grew 19.5 per cent from $1.2 billion in 2006 to nearly $1.4 billion in 2007 in Asia-Pacific.

And while the focus has been elsewhere, according to IDC research manager enterprise servers and workstations, Matt Oostveen, there has been a considerable amount of movement in the market.

“The last 12 months have seen a lot of fluctuation and transformation in the Australian server market,” he said. “In the second quarter of 2007, Unix had the highest market share by revenue, accounting for 43.1 per cent of dollars spent on servers, while Windows accounted for 33.9 per cent and Linux came in fourth place with 7.7 per cent, behind third placed IBM Z/OS – mainframe OS – with 10.7 per cent.

“If we fast forward to the latest IDC figures from Q2 this year, we can see how the landscape has changed: Windows is now the revenue market share leader with 44.3 per cent, ahead of Unix with 34.4 per cent share and Linux third with 10.5 per cent share.”

Driving much of this change has been the introduction of new technologies like quad-core x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD, which have allowed server customers to obtain higher levels of computational power for less money than traditional Unix installations, Oostveen claimed.

With Intel recently launching its Xeon 7400 series – a six-core CPU range aimed at high-end systems – the trend should accelerate and also enhance the role of virtualisation.

“We try to release products that are timed to market with the operating systems and the virtualisation products,” Intel enterprise technical specialist, Peter Kerney, explained.

“When the customers are saying virtualisation is a long-term strategy for us they then tell the hypervisor vendors. Those people then say ‘here are the features we need from a hardware platform, what are you guys going to do about it?’”

The new(ish) player

The introduction of Microsoft’s EBS also will be a fresh approach to the game and is splitting opinions.

“I think it is going to be a bit of a killer blow,” Calvert Technologies principal consultant, Dean Calvert, predicted. “You’ll certainly get the Linux community out there with their view on things but EBS will be like when SBS, particularly in 2003, created a new market space.

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