In this series, we’re looking at the Windows operating system (OS) as a Web hosting platform. In the series overview, we looked at how Windows was developed and at its popularity. We’ve also looked at the scripting languages used on the Windows OS platform for serving Web pages, SQL Server and MSADO database software. In this article, we’re focusing on Microsoft's current position in the Server OS market and its plans for the future.
As we mentioned in the introduction to this series, the Windows OS was initially designed around consumer use, with standalone PCs the focus of founder Bill Gates’ vision of a personal computer, “on every office desktop and in every home.” It was only toward the end of 1995 that Gates publicly embraced the Internet and began refocusing Microsoft as an Internet company.
Microsoft and the Server OS Market
As Netcraft figures show, Microsoft achieved rapid growth in the Server OS market throughout 1996 and 1997, and by February 1998 had become the second largest platform, with almost 25 percent market share. Since then their market share has never fallen below 20 percent, though it has peaked at 35 percent and currently falls around the 25 percent marker.
The range of server offerings from Microsoft has grown from a single option, NT4, to a huge array of specific server platforms. These range from the basic Windows Server 2008R2 through the Hyper-V Server (virtualization software designed to enable server consolidation) to the BizTalk Server designed to integrate applications across multiple platforms, including mainframes, in order to ease access to data and simplify business operations. It’s estimated that Microsoft Windows OS makes up around 40 percent of the server market overall.
Yet within the Web hosting segment of the market, Microsoft Web servers make up 23-25 percent and across the top million busiest sites, that drops to around 17 percent. This suggests that Microsoft servers are most popular at the smaller end of the market, at least where Web hosting is concerned.
Plans for the Future
Based on Microsoft’s stated aim of releasing server upgrades every two years, alternating between minor (e.g. Server 2008 to 2008R2 in 2010) and major (e.g. 2008R2 to Server 2012 in 2012) releases, it seems safe to assume users have two years to get used to 2008R2 platforms before having to think about updating their software.
When that update comes, users can expect the major changes to focus on virtualization, cloud computing and “anywhere access,” separating the user’s information from the individual computer used to access it.
Microsoft is already moving in this direction with online services, such as SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Microsoft Office Web Apps, plus Windows Live ID allowing users to sign in to multiple applications across the Web with a single set of credentials.
With the advent of Azure offering “OS as a Web service” and SQL Azure bringing the database server into the cloud, Microsoft committed more and more to this vision of a future where, according to Steve Ballmer “every piece of software will have a client component, a server component, and service component from the cloud.” With the Beta release of Windows Intune in April 2010, the shape of this future becomes a little clearer. Microsoft’s game plan seems to be for complete interconnectivity and the ability to work anywhere provided you have an Internet connection, with services provided on a subscription, rather than one time license basis.