Microsoft's next server operating system doesn't appear revolutionary, but the final release will deliver a range of features useful to users looking to ease management, network and security issues.
But it isn't all good news since Microsoft released in April the Beta 3 of Longhorn, now officially known as Windows Server 2008.
Gone from the planned final end of year release are highly touted virtualisation capabilities. Virtualisation was originally supposed to be baked into the server but will now ship separately within 180 days of its final release. On top of that, in May Microsoft cut three features from what is now called Windows Server Virtualisation, including a highly anticipated live migration option.
Even though users will have to wait for those capabilities, the Longhorn Beta 3 is feature complete, according to Microsoft, and comes with enough new features that IT executives will be forced to make a list of must-haves before they begin roll-outs.
Windows Server 2008 is focused on three primary areas: management, including Server Core technology; security, such as BitLocker drive encryption and Read-only Domain Controllers; and performance, including a redesigned TCP/IP stack.
It also represents the gateway into the world of 64-bit-only server operating systems from Microsoft. The R2 version of Windows Server 2008 slated to ship in 2009 won't include a 32-bit version.
In addition, the server is the other half of Vista features such as Network Access Protection (NAP) and new Terminal Services features.
For IT architects at Quixtar, an online retailer of health and beauty products, year-end is too long to wait and the company, part of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP), is running Windows Server 2008 in production.
In the coming weeks, Quixtar plans to double its Windows Server 2008 deployment from four to eight servers that are running Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0. Quixtar handles 99 percent of its traffic through its web servers and needs each one to be configured identically.
"IIS 7.0 allows us to define a configuration using an XML schema architecture so we know how each server is configured without a doubt," says Steve Cole, lead system support specialist for the company.
IIS 6.0 required that each server be configured independently, which meant Quixtar had to create customised checks and balances around its ISS 6.0 deployment.
"With IIS 7, there will not be human error," Cole says.
Cole also says IIS 7.0's Failed Request Tracking helps pinpoint errors in IIS and applications, and allows diagnosis while the software is still running. He says it has streamlined troubleshooting and dramatically reduced support calls to Microsoft.