HOSTSEARCH: Michael, thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak to you like this - much appreciated. As ever, I think it would be great for our visitors if you could introduce yourself and let us know a bit about your role within Microsoft.
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Thank you, John. My name is Michael van Dijken and I am the lead marketing communications manager for our hosting channel business at Microsoft. I'm responsible for making sure the industry knows about our initiatives to help them be successful delivering services on our platform.
HOSTSEARCH: How long have you been with Microsoft?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Three and a half years, all of which have been as part of the hosting team. Prior to that, I spent 4 years at two different hosting companies, so that makes me a veteran in the hosting space.
HOSTSEARCH: Perhaps for people not familiar with Microsoft's web hosting offerings you could give us a brief overview of what Microsoft is currently offering the web hosting industry.
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Microsoft's "mission" is to create a next-generation hosting platform which hosters deploy to deliver hosted services to their end customers, driving a compelling user-experience on any device. The platform is essentially Windows Server, IIS, Windows SharePoint Services, SQL Server and the guidance we provide to run these products efficiently in a hosted environment. With Windows Server 2008 and IIS 7, we'll make significant progress on the platform.
When we think about services, we think about three things. 1) Microsoft applications which can be hosted (such as Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft CRM). 2) Commercial ISV applications delivered as a service (SaaS). 3) Open source applications run on Windows (specifically PHP applications).
Running an efficient, scalable next-generation hosting platform with the breadth of applications that customers demand gives hosters a winning formula for being competitive as the industry evolves. Coupled with tools like Silverlight and Expression, web developers can create the experience users demand of the web today.
HOSTSEARCH: What are the real benefits of Windows web hosting solutions? What do they offer hosts that other solutions do not?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Our top partners tell us repeatedly that their Windows business is the most profitable and fastest growing for them. Our research tells us that as customers demand more than just a basic web site and POP email, hosted solutions built on Windows meet those needs best, particularly with the breadth of services that can be run on the Microsoft platform.
So, with that in mind, the solutions Microsoft has built for hosters defines how to build and run the platform and applications which give hosters the ability to meet those needs. Hosted Messaging and Collaboration for example gives clear guidance on how to host Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint.
We work with many partners who add value to our hosting platform, giving hosters an even greater amount of flexibility and efficiency in how they run their datacenters. SWSoft builds great hosting automation software for example.
HOSTSEARCH: And it seems that for a long time there has really been one issue as far as servers are concerned... Windows... Apache... Simply put, how has Microsoft turned this around? How have you made such significant gains?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Well first of all the technology has come a long way since the days of IIS 4. That in and of itself cannot be ignored, and IIS 7 will continue to take leaps and bounds forward. Windows Server 2003 is exponentially better for hosting than Windows NT was.
In addition, the breadth of applications and partners in the Windows hosting ecosystem has grown tremendously, which means that hosting on Windows simply makes good business sense.
And as I said before, end customers are asking for hosting on Windows, particularly as their requirement move beyond basic web hosting.
Microsoft has also done a lot recently to help partners market their Windows services. For example, hosting features more prominently in the Microsoft Partner Program giving hosters access to co-marketing resources and directory listings. There is also a Microsoft certification specifically for hosting professionals.
All of these things have contributed to the growth we've experienced.
HOSTSEARCH: You have IIS7 set for release next year with Windows Server 2008. When we interviewed John Zanni, Director of Hosting for the Communications Sector at Microsoft in July 2006, he recommended our visitors go to the IIS7 website to "to see what the future will bring". Well, the future is here very soon - what will it bring?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: I could spend all day talking about what we've built into IIS 7! When the product team started planning for this release, they spent significant time listening to what hosters wanted in a web server from Microsoft. Here is a preview: vastly improved site density; delegated administration; rich self-service management tools; PHP application hosting (optimized for Windows). In addition, the Windows Server Web Edition will be enhanced such that hosters will have a competitive entry-level offer on Windows in the dedicated hosting scenario.
HOSTSEARCH: Will this release make Microsoft the dominant force as far as servers are concerned? Are you expecting this?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: As you've seen, Microsoft has been trending up in market share according to Netcraft. There is no reason to think that that trend would slow down when we launch our best ever version of Windows Server and IIS.
There will be little reason for a hoster to run alternative platforms once Windows Server 2008 is released.
HOSTSEARCH: Without telling us too much, beyond IIS7 and Windows Server 2008, generally, what can the hosting community expect from Microsoft in the near future?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: From a product perspective, Windows Server 2008 (with IIS 7), SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 will be the biggest server launch in company history. It will dominate the next 12 months.
That said, we are working on incorporated Office Communicator 2007 into Hosted Messaging and Collaboration (along with a few other enhancements). Watch for more news there.
We will continue our efforts with ISVs as they look to deliver their applications as a service; as we do this, we will encourage them to work with hosters for service delivery. I think this will be a big growth area going forward, and will give hosters even more applications to choose from as they build out their service portfolio.
HOSTSEARCH: Away from hosting a bit, and probably a more global question... We've seen Microsoft making great strides in the hosting arena, but where will the company's more public efforts be directed - will Microsoft abandon the software model and plumb for moving software onto the Internet? What about initiatives like Live.com - what sort of ground is that making up as far as people like Google and others are concerned? Where is Microsoft going?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Microsoft is at its core an ISV. We build the best software available in the categories in which we compete. Customers choose how to use our software. Some will continue to deploy onsite, some will purchase software hosted by our hosting partners and some will choose to have Microsoft host the software. Microsoft gives the power of choice to our customers.