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As Microsoft gears up for the Feb. 27 launch of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008—the biggest enterprise launch in the company’s history—it is aggressively readying its partners to handle the wave of demand it hopes will be generated for these new products.

So important is partner readiness that Allison Watson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s worldwide partner group, headed off on a 45-day worldwide tour to review all partner businesses, returning to the United States on Feb. 12.

And she is upbeat about what she found. "We feel more on top of this launch than for any other launch in our history. This is the biggest launch for the IT professional and the core IT community and it has the potential to reinvigorate and offer new options for both partners and customers," Watson said.

But, while Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis at the NPD Group, said he thinks this number is a good start, given the massive installed base of Windows Server, Visual Studio and SQL Server, Microsoft "clearly needs to train more partners to handle the sheer volume of upgrade projects over the next one to three years as customers migrate to the new versions."

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