Windows Server 2008, Vista SP1 Released to Manufacturing

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Microsoft Monday announced that two of its most important products of thelast half-decade are complete and ready to be shipped.

WindowsServer 2008 and Windows Vista Service Pack 1 were released to manufacturing(RTM), marking a dual milestone in the history of both products. It alsomeans that Windows 2008 will be officially shipping by the "Global LaunchWave" of enterprise products on Feb. 27. Others include Visual Studio 2008,released last year, and SQL Server 2008, which was recently pushed backto Q3.

Windows 2008 marks the first major new release of a WindowsServer OS since Windows Server 2003. It's also one of Microsoft's mosttested products ever: a Microsoft press release stated that more than twomillion beta and evaluation versions were obtained.

It's asignificantly overhauled OS in a number of ways, most of which involveenhanced enterprise abilities. Some of the major changes include:

  • Windows PowerShell. PowerShell is a command-line scripting environmentthat allows most functionality in Windows 2008 to be automated.
  • Server Core. Server Core is a stripped-down version of the OS tuned forspecific tasks, like Web serving, DNS management or print serving. It has asmaller footprint and better performance than a full-blown version ofWindows 2008.
  • Network Access Protection (NAP). NAP is a securityenvironment that protects a network by requiring certain standards to be metbefore a computer is allowed to join a network; for example, a laptoprunning Windows XP that isn't patched to a certain level will be rejected bythe domain.
  • Hyper-V. Hyper-V is a built-in hypervisor forvirtualization. Virtualization is the process of separating software fromthe underlying hardware. It allows, for example, multiple operating systemsto be run on a single physical computer, or multiple copies of a single OSto be run on one computer.

Windows 2008, known throughout muchof its development history by the codename "Longhorn", was much delayed, andhad a key early feature, the information storage and retrieval technologyknown as WinFS, ultimately scrapped.

An interesting blog posting the morning of RTM described the mood ofthe server team just prior to the release. "In the final days leading up toRTM, the tone in the war room meetings was calm, almost too calm becausethere were minimal bugs to resolve and final testing went very smoothly. Wefocused on testing of the code changes made in Nov/Dec to make sure nothingregressed. Hundreds of system component teams across the Windows divisionand Microsoft performed their escrow test passes and signed off. The lastimportant step was to ensure our deployment customers, OEMs, and MicrosoftIT were satisfied and had no major issues." The author of the post wasanonymous.

Windows 2008 has been closely tied to its desktopcounterpart, Vista, since the beginning. Vista, released to the public alittle more than a year ago, has had a rocky history. Microsoft is countingon SP1 to be a turning point in its acceptance by corporations and thepublic in general.

The two OSes largely share the same codebase, andwere developed to work tightly together. But Vista has been a sales disappointment</a> for Microsoft, despite pronouncements</a> of its popularity.

Many complaints had to do with a lack of applicationcompatibility. A blog posting on the Vista team Website by Mike Nash,corporate vice-president of Windows Product Management, acknowledged theproblem:

"When we first released Windows Vista last year, there werelots of customers who had great experiences, but some had issues findingapplications that worked well on Windows Vista; others had problems findingthe right device drivers for some of the hardware devices that theyused."

Vista SP1 will cure a lot of those problems. Additionalupgrades include reliability and performance improvements; increased ease ofdeployment; and Kernel Patch Protection Application Programming Interfaces(APIs), which will make it easier for third-party security developers tointegrate their products with Vista.

Another change unveiled in SP1relates to local search. In response to a legalchallenge from Google, Microsoft made it easier to find third-partytools for searching a local desktop. Microsoft's version, called InstantSearch, will now be on a more even footing with offerings from companieslike Google.

Along with those changes, another major reason forMicrosoft to be hopeful about increased adoption of Vista with SP1 relatesto tradition. Normally, a large percentage of companies wait until the firstservice pack of a new Microsoft OS before they will consider putting it intoproduction. There is always a certain amount of wariness about the buginessof a first release of a product as complex as Vista, and it's assumed,fairly or not, that the bugs will have mostly been squashed with the firstservice pack.

According to a blog posting onMicrosoft's TechNet Website, Windows 2008 will be available for commercialpurchase March 1. Microsoft's Nash listed several different timeframes forthe availability of Vista SP1.

In mid-March, Vista SP1 will bereleased to Windows Update and Microsoft's download center. About a monthlater, SP1 will start to be pushed out to automatic download customers. Alsosometime in April, versions with languages that weren't supported in withthe Windows Update release in March -- English, French, Spanish, German andJapanese -- will be RTMed.

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About the author: Keith Ward is online news editor for the Redmond Media Group. You can contact him at kward@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Keith Ward is online news editor for the Redmond Media Group. You can contact him at kward@1105media.com.

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