Microsoft Ships Server 2008 to OEMs

The Redmond, Wash.-based company said in a statement that it had reached the "RTM" (release to manufacturers) development stage of its next-generation OS, formerly known as "Longhorn." The company's much-touted virtualization technology, Hyper-V, will remain in beta until several months after the launch of Server 2008. The launch is expected to be within weeks.

At the same time, Microsoft also formally announced that it has released Vista Service Pack 1, with availability to the general market in March. In a release note, Microsoft said SP 1 provides "quality improvements that help enhance reliability, security and performance."

The release to manufacturers of the server software and Vista service pack was announced just days after Microsoft announced its bold plans to acquire search and web platform company Yahoo in a $44.6 billion, unsolicited takeover attempt. Entirely separate from the plans for Yahoo, the Gold Code release of Server 2008 shows that the company is continuing to push for growth both in its long-time, core business as well as what it sees as its future.

In addition to Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 comes with a lengthy list of enhancements over Windows Server 2003 - - including automated storage management and backup; automated security and firewalling; faster installation and failover clustering. Microsoft developers are also touting a new approach to networking, in which parallelism features have been introduced into the OS to provide for, potentially, orders of magnitude faster performance in transferring files across a network. The OS also includes Windows PowerShell, a new command line shell that Microsoft says will streamline many functions for IT administrators. PowerShell was designed to make scripting easier and more intuitive.

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Microsoft's road to the manufacturing release was not a short one, nor was it without bumps or delays. But in getting to this point, Microsoft executives have said that this will be Microsoft's operating system for the next ten years.

Solution providers who have seen the beta version of Windows Server 2008 have lauded everything from Server Core to enhanced security to Microsoft's self-healing NTFS.

The superstar of Microsoft's new technology lineup, in many ways, is Hyper-V, which will enable partitioning of resources on a physical server and allow for installation of multiple operating systems from within Windows Server 2008 environments.

But there was not universal awe from the advances that Microsoft is bringing to the table. Executives at VMware - - which have now been set up as a key competitor for Microsoft - - have been particularly eager to talk about differentiation between their technology and Microsoft's virtualization.

"This is going to be something that runs multiple, virtual machines that you put your business-critical applications on," Erik Wrobel, VMware's director of product management, said. "You obviously are not going to put that into your data center unless it's something that's robust. And this is a first-generation product."

Wrobel said that VMware's own virtualization technology has been available for data center computing for seven or eight years and has been tried and tested in data center applications.