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NEW YORK—Microsoft has gotten religion on hosting, and in a big way.

Windows Server 2008, to be released Feb. 27, 2008, includes tools and features intended to make Microsoft partners better hosts.

It includes tools to ease the deployment and provisioning of Web sites during a data migration, said Michael van Dijken, lead marketing manager for Microsoft’s hosting business.

During the company’s road show here for partners, van Dijken said Microsoft has even partnered with virtualization vendor SWsoft to provide virtualization tools in WS2008 that can be used during a migration. “Virtualization is a great way to do migrations,” said van Dijken, because virtualized environments can be used as temporary staging areas while data is being moved from one physical server to another.

eWEEK Labs tests Windows Server 2008 virtualization. See what they found.

Service interruptions at Web hosting companies Hostway this summer and NaviSite just last week have affected hundreds of thousands of users; in both cases, botched data center migrations were at the root of the outages.

Van Dijken told eWEEK that Microsoft has put a greater emphasis on the Web with its current release cycle than at any other time in the company’s history. “Windows Server 2008 was built with Web hosting in mind,” he said.

The company is also intent on being seen as committed to the Web hosting business. “We want to make it more beneficial for hosters to work with us as a business partner,” he said.

Internet Information Services 7, the engine at the heart of WS2008, is a more modular version of its WS2003 counterpart, IIS 6, which “included everything including the kitchen sink, even if you didn’t want the kitchen sink,” said van Dijken.

Making IIS more modular has several advantages, van Dijken said. It reduces the footprint of IIS 7, allowing partners to host more Web sites on a single server, and also reduces the potential attack surface for spyware and viruses to exploit.

In contrast to WS2003, which could host between 500 and 1,000 sites per physical server, WS2008 can accommodate between 2,000 and 4,000 sites. Van Dijken said these figures are based on real-world examples, not laboratory analysis. He said 15 Microsoft beta partners are already offering WS2008 to their customers.

WS2008 also pushes more administrative functions down to the site owners, freeing personnel at hosting companies to perform more value-added functions, without compromising security.

“For some partners, high-touch service is part of what they offer, but for some of the larger companies, this can represent a significant savings,” noted van Dijken.

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