Windows IT Pro is celebrating its 15 year anniversary this year.  Congratulations! That’s a major achievement in our industry.  As part of a series Michael Otley wrote a post for the Windows It Pro blog called “Top 15 Windows Server Innovations In the Past 15 years.”  It is definitely worth a few minutes to go out and read the post in its entirety. 

I loved the post!  Otley is right on the money with some great innovations that we have seen in the world of Windows servers over 15 years.  While I am sure it was hard to pick just 15 innovations I feel like there are some major keys missing from Otley’s list, and possibly some additions that made the list on hype not actual performance. (Eg. the Remote Fx, and the Dynamic memory stuff)  Its not that I don’t think those are awesome innovations, but just not what I would consider top 15 in the past 15 years. As I read his post I started thinking about what my own list would look like.  The difficulty of course comes from the fact that we are talking about 15 years, and in that 15 year time span Windows has gone from a tiny percentage of server market share to the overwhelming leader in the server industry.  What innovations spurred that sweeping change?  I would like to take a crack at answering that question myself. (Incidentally my list will only contain 5 items.)

So here Goes……

In order of importance…..

1.  TCP/IP – I know, I know. Not glamorous or sexy, but in my mind this is the tipping point.  Microsoft first released their version of TCP/IP for Windows 3.5 in September of 1994 which is technically 16 years ago, not within the 15 year Window, (pun intended) however this is the single most important innovation in the history of Windows Server.  Yes you read that correctly!  This is the single most important innovation in Windows Server history.  It is the key driver that swung the balance of power away from our competitors and their various proprietary (albeit fast) protocols. It provided a standards based method of connectivity on which to build and host all of the major innovations that would follow. Had Microsoft chosen to stay with NetBEUI we would have never made the leap into the mainstream server marketplace.

2. Exchange (Windows Messaging) – 15 years ago Microsoft plunged headlong into the uncharted world of something called e-mail.  That foray has resulted in one of the most used server products in the world today.  Many of the innovations that are on Mr. Otleys list (and on mine for that matter) were tested or developed from Exchange.  Can you imagine a business without email? Me either.  

3.  Active Directory – for all the reasons Michael Otley lists and many many more.

4. The NTFS File System – Again not sexy but oh so important.  Unlike proprietary protocols file systems do very well in a proprietary environment.  NTFS is the proof. 

5. Microsoft Office – I know I have broken the 15 year rule again.  So lets just say all the versions of Office since 1995. Now many of you are thinking that Office is a desktop technology and I guess when it comes right down to it you are right, but, and this is a really really big but, the files associated with office are the key drivers of File server adoption.  Office and Server are such a powerful combination we would be totally remiss if we didn’t include this on the list of key server innovations. It is no coincidence that versions of Office are generally preceded by releases of Windows Server and vice versa.  The 2 products have a symbiotic market relationship.  I will state one more argument for putting office here.  The reason we have SharePoint, #5 on Otley’s list, coincidentally, is because of office. 

And there you have it.  My list of key innovations of the past 15 years.  The past is the past.  We can learn from it and celebrate it. 

What are the key innovations happening right now?

What we will look back on in 15 years and say “Those were the key innovations of the last 15 years!”        

Oddly enough I think the list starts with exactly the same thing.

1. TCP/IP!  This time Microsoft is pushing hard to IPV6 and the innovations that this change has already fostered and will yet foster will drive the server business for the next 15 years.  If you would like to know the rest of the list stay tuned to this blog……………