Eight great Microsoft reviews and analyses

With a new Enterprise Windows on the horizon, we pause to look back at some in-depth looks at Microsoft wares

Oliver Rist is gone, but his memory will live on, both in our hearts and in the databases of InfoWorld.com. While you may very well have read each and every Enterprise Windows column he wrote over the years, it's possible that you missed some of the great Windows-oriented product reviews and analyses the InfoWorld Test Center has done, many penned by Oliver.

Now, before we get to those, you're probably wondering who InfoWorld is enlisting to track the Big Red beast. Well, just as Microsoft has told us with Longhorn, we're afraid you'll just have to wait -- though we can assure you that, by next week, we'll have a new, brave soul who is willing to sacrifice his sanity to tracking all the happenings in Redmond.

And without further ado, here are the top eight Microsoft product tests and analyses InfoWorld's done in the past year:

1. Product: Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007

Score: Good, 7.4

Bottom line: SharePoint Server 2007 is a platform that offers amazing new potential to Microsoft Office users, and it does so without loads of new training for IT. However, the platform is so powerful that administrators will need to be careful when planning architecture and hardware distribution, as well as when and in what order they'll roll out certain features. 2. Product: Microsoft Office Groove Server

Score: Fair, 6.8

Bottom line: Office Groove Server 2007 is a platform meant to ease the IT burden of managing 100 or more Office Groove 2007 users. Covering management security and even file transfers as well as communication with back-end line-of-business apps via Web Services, this is one Office Server package that really doesn't need SharePoint. 3. Product: InfoPath 2007 and Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007

Score: Good, 7.3

Bottom line: InfoPath 2007 and SharePoint 2007 Enterprise or Forms Server 2007 have enough combined power to truly revolutionize how your company handles forms. From content to display capabilities, the duo handles it all, and it adds security and business intelligence to the mix as well. 4. Product: Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006

Score: Excellent, 8.9

Bottom line: Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 offers strong capabilities to all four key constituencies involved in EAI and b-to-b e-commerce: developers, business analysts, IT professionals, and business users. Although it runs only on Windows servers and requires two other Microsoft products, it can connect to and integrate with a wide variety of databases, Web services, and line-of-business applications. 5. Product: Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Score: Excellent, 9.1

Bottom line: SQL Server 2005 vastly improves capabilities on all fronts, including development, integration, management, and BI. Companies will be able to run safer databases, better manage their environment, and finally create a truly 24/7 operation. Among new high-availability features, partial restores will allow databases to be brought online faster after failures, and database mirroring, although not yet officially supported, will provide automatic fail-over for log shipping scenarios. 6. Preview: Microsoft Exchange 2007

Score: N/A

Bottom line: Overall, Exchange 2007 is a very likable upgrade. The new management interface is somewhat reorganized, and while Microsoft did succeed in making it a mite cleaner overall, the UI most likely won't save you much real time in day-to-day work. The Exchange Management Shell may be worth the upgrade all by itself for some folks. Users may enjoy the benefits of Exchange 2007, as e-mail administrators will. OWA and Windows Mobility both seem like "nice to haves" at first blush, but both have powerful long-term potential. If there's anything we really don't like about Exchange 2007, it has to be the sudden move toward x64-only. 7. Analysis: Deploying Microsoft Office 2007

Score: N/A

Bottom line: Overall, Microsoft has done a decent job anticipating users' Office 2007 deployment needs and providing tools to manage them. Deploying as part of a WIM image is definitely a plus; however, we couldn't edit the customization settings on an existing Office 2007 WIM installation the way we could with Vista. (At least, we couldn't find an easy way to do it.) It's best simply to make a WIM image for largely different Office installations. 8. Analysis: Microsoft tools ease Vista deployment

Score: N/A

Bottom line: The upshot on Microsoft Vista deployment is that it's far and away better than what we had in the box with Windows XP Professional. The company did a solid job addressing the needs of most conventional businesses, but there's definitely room for customization and improvement on the overall smoothness of the operation that third-party desktop management vendors such as Altiris or LANDesk will likely exploit.

Hopefully this look back has proven useful. Stay tuned next week as we resume our in-depth coverage of Microsoft with a fresh new perspective.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.