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Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2008 To Manufacturing

More than 2 million copies of Windows Server test versions have been downloaded, and Microsoft has 445 customers that have begun early deployments.

Microsoft released Windows Server 2008 to manufacturers Monday, almost a month before the operating system's official launch party. The company will begin selling Windows Server 2008 to new customers on March 1, and business customers that already have volume licenses will be able to download the new software on or about Feb. 27.

"We've had the wheels on the runway for months, so we feel really solid about the quality of this release," Alex Hinrichs, Microsoft group program manager for Windows Server, said in an interview. "This is the most tested version of Windows Server we've ever done."

The reference to rigorous testing might be a way to assuage fears that Windows Server could turn out to have the same performance and compatibility problems that plagued Windows Vista after its release.

Microsoft has been hosting all its Web sites on Windows Server 2008 for months and first started testing the operating system in an actual deployment more than two years ago with a rollout of Active Directory. More than 2 million copies of Windows Server test versions have been downloaded, and Microsoft has 445 Technology Adoption Program customers that have begun early deployments.

Windows Server often has a longer adoption cycle than the desktop version as many companies roll it out as they buy new server-based software that requires the new operating system. On that front, Microsoft is working to get software companies lined up. Like Windows Vista, there will be a certification program to prove applications work with Windows Server.

With 500 applications in the certification pipeline, Microsoft expects 80 to be ready to be certified and 300 to be labeled "Works With Windows Server 2008" by the time of the software's launch event Feb. 27. Windows Server 2008 will support all of Microsoft's own current server software at release. For the first time, Microsoft also is making the same tools it gives to software companies for application compatibility testing available to businesses to test their own custom applications. "We're in better shape than we've ever been for apps on a Windows Server release," Bob Visse, a Windows Server senior director for Microsoft, said in an interview.

Microsoft also will roll out a marketing blitz, spending more than $150 million over the next year to market Windows Server 2008 and hosting more than 200 launch events around the world. The main launch event in Los Angeles on Feb. 27 is almost full, with 7,000 people registered so far. Marketing, Visse said, will focus on security, Web development and hosting, branch office solutions, and Windows Server's new virtualization capabilities.

Microsoft is touting several new features in Windows Server 2008. Among them is Internet Information Services 7.0, Microsoft's Web server technology. The interest in IIS 7.0 has been high enough that Microsoft began offering support for it last April. Among other improvements, Microsoft is opening IIS 7.0 to non-Microsoft technology by allowing PHP application hosting via IIS 7.0's FastCGI module.

Windows Server 2008 also comes with the Server Core installation option, which will allow customers to install a server on a much smaller footprint by only installing the code needed for the server to run in one of 17 roles, including a file and print server, Web server, and others. Other significant new features include Network Access Protection, which can prevent unpatched and insecure computers from accessing a corporate network, and Hyper-V virtualization, which will only be in beta with the operating system's initial release and will be released in full within six months.

To nudge customers along with their rollouts, Microsoft has released a series of planning and deployment products. Those include the Microsoft assessment and planning tool, which looks at application and hardware compatibility and recommends server virtualizations; infrastructure planning and design guides, a security guide; and the Microsoft deployment tool for guidance in large-scale rollouts.

Microsoft also released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 on Monday, marking the first of what could become a long line of joint client and server operating system releases. Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 share much of the same code base and should see similar development cycles.

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 were also designed with each other. Certain features of both either only work when a business has both Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista in place, or work better than otherwise under that scenario. For example, Windows Vista and Server 2008 share a revamped networking stack, and Microsoft claims performance improvements for joint installations in areas like file sharing and managed quality of service. Terminal Services for customers using both operating systems will also be improved, as workers will be able to connect directly to an application running on a server, rather than be forced to connect to a full desktop, which eats up bandwidth.

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