Most people have heard of the campaign where customers say, “Windows 7 was my idea.” Well, Windows Server 8 continues to carry that torch and has become a solution that customers can truly say was their idea.

  
As Bill Laing mentioned in his Windows Server 8 Introduction post, input from our customers and partners (our “ecosystem”) is an essential part of our Windows Server product strategy. We invested heavily in voice of the customer activities, with more than 26,000 customers and partners surveyed, 200+ ecosystem meetings held and 6000+ ideas captured. We were able to build a great foundation of insights as we evolve from feature-oriented product development to a focus on end-to-end IT scenarios.  Rather than shipping a laundry list of great individual features, our goal for Windows Server 8 is to deliver the functionality needed to improve the real life experiences customers go through each day in their business.

 
As the leader of the Windows Server Partner & Customer Ecosystem team I’ve had the privilege of being very close to our ongoing customer and partner engagements since the beginning of the product planning cycle. Our approach has helped us expand beyond  incremental improvements and focus on delivering broad functionality that not only solves key business problems for customers , but does it in a way that supports customers both today and as they progress further with cloud computing.


Customers told us things like:

  • “I want our servers to seamlessly expand across clusters of servers that can be added or removed on demand.”
  • “I want servers to have the ability to monitor themselves for issues that may need to be investigated and alert - a Smart Server.”
  • “I need to have dynamic resource scheduling\allocation without intervention.”
  • “I want to have a truly portable operating environment that moves with me from device to device.”


When we consolidate feedback like that across 200+ customer and partner meetings, plus broader surveys, we heard very clearly that you’re really looking for the ability to scale in an efficient and cost-effective manner across your own private cloud and securely connect to external cloud services. You need to proficiently manage your infrastructure – maximizing uptime and minimizing downtime. The platform you build on needs to be open and scalable and support cross-premises applications. With today’s environment, you need to support a mobile and flexible work style – giving appropriate levels of access to data from wherever an employee is. It was extremely valuable to understand how each of these areas played out in different markets, segments and geographies. It also became very clear that partners would play a pivotal role in making all of this a reality.

  
Looking back at our approach
How we got to this point in the product cycle has been a huge team effort across our full ecosystem. The chart below provides a look at our approach.


 

Pre-Planning is when we reached out to that broad set of customers and partners to gather their vision of where their businesses are heading. That surfaced 6000+ ideas (similar to those above) that fed the formal Planning phase. Those requirements turned into storyboards and concepts that were reviewed with customers and partners. Once validated, they became formal scenarios and our Vision was set for Windows Server 8. This is the point where we kicked off co-engineering efforts with partners who would help us complete certain scenarios, including Continuous Availability, Hyper-V switch extensibility and Claims-Based Access Control. These partners were at the recent //build/ conference where we introduced Windows Server 8. (Visit Channel 9 to see short videos from the following partners: Brocade, DynamicOps, EmulexGemalto, InMon, QLogic, Titus, WebsenseBroadcom, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, NetApp).


As we entered the Development phase, these partners (and others) were deeply engaged to ensure Windows Server 8 delivers on the priority scenarios that came out of the initial pre-planning discussions. Whether it was developing drivers, hardware components, core functionality or additional functionality on top of our scenarios, the ecosystem has been a true partner in our ability to deliver what customers have asked for – and at the same time establish a platform that will support them into the future.


It’s been a rewarding experience for all of the Windows Server team to have customers and partners engaged throughout each phase of the product cycle. Our end goal is to deliver the most customer centric solution yet for Windows Server. Based on the response from //build, we appear to be on that path and we have our entire ecosystem to thank. Here’s to continued partnership and active “voice of the customer” dialogue between now and launch!


Natalia Mackevicius


Group Program Manager
Partner and Customer Ecosystem