Microsoft previously said Longhorn would ship during the second half of 2007, but today the company announced that the server operating system would be released to manufacturing by the end of 2007.
The Windows Server beta is now feature-complete, except for one of the most important services: the planned virtualization hypervisor, code-named Viridian, which is due to ship in 2008 as an add-on to the server.
Many solution providers have expressed disappointment that the first Viridian beta has been delayed until the second half of this year, but they're still looking forward to testing all of the other core server components now in place.
Longhorn Beta 3, for example, adds a few significant features to test, including the Windows PowerShell command language interface and new server roles, including print services, Active Directory, Lightweight Directory Services and enhanced Active Directory Federation Services.
"Longhorn is important to us for various reasons. One of the major plays will be virtualization," said Ric Opal, vice president of PetersAssociates, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. "We are [also] currently seeing tremendous growth with SharePoint Portal Server and Exchange 2007. We are very services-focused, so Longhorn and the functionality it will deliver is very crucial to us as a VAR."
Although some solution providers expect that turning the firewall on by default will cause testers problems in the field, others said the security features, especially NAP, will take off now that Beta 3 is here.
"Network access protection is huge for clients, especially as an integrated, combined solution into the server," said Matt Scherocman, a director at PCMS IT Advisor, Cincinnati. "This lack of integration has been the largest cause for delay of deployment of network access protection."
Microsoft said it expects hundreds of thousands of copies of the Longhorn Beta 3 to be downloaded by partners and business customers, compared to only tens of thousands of copies of Beta 2 released last May. The x86 code occupies 1.8 Gbytes, and the x64 edition is 2.5 Gbytes.
Partners serving primarily small businesses are more anxious for the release of the Small Business Server edition of Longhorn, code-named Cougar, which is slated to ship in 2008.
"We will likely test Beta 3 internally in a virtualized state. But in terms of release, I don't see a lot of immediate adoption," said Michael Cocanower, president of IT Synergy, Phoenix.
"Most small-business customers are going to wait for 'Cougar' before making a move. Most medium-business customers will likely move to Longhorn. However, they are generally slower moving to new technology," Cocanower added.