Analysis: Microsoft deals with server recall

Red faces at Redmond as Microsoft is forced into a product recall but the problem is more common than you'd think

Microsoft has had to re-call the recent R2 release of its Small Business Server 2003 product following the discovery that it contained outdated code modules.

Fortunately this is unlikely to affect many customers as most of the shipments were to system builders and other OEMs. However, the fact that some 3,000 copies had been shipped before the problem was noticed is worrying. Added to which full customer shipments won't now happen until September, almost a month later than expected.

The gaffe is something of an embarrassment to Microsoft which, in an effort to stop the issue arising again has announced its intention to audit the code base of new products much earlier in the release cycle. However, it's the not the first time there's been a problem. A previous version of the Small Business Server wouldn't install after a certain date calling for a patch to be issued shortly after the package was released.

Neither is it a problem unique to Microsoft. Initial downloads of the recently released Fedora Core 5, for example, wouldn't support binary drivers, calling for a kernel update before the Linux O/S could be used with some video cards.

Similarly, it's increasingly common for vendors to leave out features and functionality in an effort to meet release dates. As happened with Solaris 10, which has only just been updated to include the self-healing Zetabyte file system (ZFS) - more than a year after the original code was released.

But should we really be surprised given the increasing complexity of modern operating systems, and the demands placed on vendors to continually improve on the products?

Moreover, as delivery channels become more dynamic it's getting a lot harder for developers to maintain control over their code. Where previously it would have taken weeks for CDs to be pressed - giving extra time to identify and fix problems - nowadays newly released code can be replicated to download sites in seconds.

All the more reason, you might think, for more rigorous quality control. Plus it adds fuel to the old adage that you should wait at least until the first service pack has been released before using a new operating system in anger. Wise words indeed.

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