Lost in all the hype about the Windows 7 launch last week is the excitement around the simultaneous launch of Windows Server 2008 R2. There are probably a few reasons this launch has been so overlooked. First, as I mentioned, it came hand-in-hand with the desktop launch. Clearly, Microsoft's marketing team doesn't plan any 'I'm a Windows Server' commercials to go along with their current 'I'm a PC' campaign, so the masses will often not know about the server.
Second is the naming convention. This is the second time Microsoft has chosen to stick the R2 moniker at the end of a server product name (Windows Server 2003 R2 started the trend) for some unknown reason. I realize they probably don't want to go through a rebranding campaign every 18 months, but R2 does add not much excitement to a product launch. Make no mistake however; Windows Server 2008 R2 is a substantial new product release with a wealth of outstanding new features, and something to certainly get excited about.
There is good reason why the new network operating system was shipped the same time as the desktop. There are a ton of features that are designed to work specifically with clients running Windows 7. It's Microsoft's hope that if the lure of Windows 7 on its own is not enough to force a desktop upgrade, the combined power of the two will push it over the edge. They may be on to something with this strategy. While some of the stand-alone or upgraded features are awesome (new versions of Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services, better performance and scalability), it's when you combine Server 2008 R2 with Windows 7 that you get all the real benefits. Features like BranchCache, Direct Access, Agile VPN and Read-Only DFS will make a very compelling story for any company considering an upgrade project.
Maybe this was Microsoft's ultimate strategy all along. I have talked recently about how the desktop operating system is becoming irrelevant. As long as the network, the server, and ultimately the cloud continue to evolve, the desktop will just go along for the ride. Microsoft is doing its part to prove my theory wrong. If they are going to keep including compelling features that require upgrades on both the server and client side, companies will be forced to keep up in both places.
Forget about the hype-it's really all about the features.