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Microsoft touts server hardware improvements

Christina Torode, Editorial Director

LOS ANGELES -- IT managers can expect to see one release candidate and possibly a few customer technology previews before Microsoft releases Windows Server 2008 to manufacturing by the end of this year.

The roadmap for the next-generation server, which was called Windows Longhorn Server until this week, was outlined by Bill Laing, general manager of Microsoft's Server division, at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference held here.

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The followup OS to Windows Server 2008 has already been "penciled in" on the server team's schedule, according to Laing, who said that the future 64-bit-only version, currently called Windows Server 2008 R2, is due out in 2009.

Windows Server 2008 is currently in Beta 3. Downloads for the public beta have exceeded 100,000 in three weeks.

"Beta 3 is feature-complete," Laing said. "Any changes made in the next few months will be based on customer feedback. Quality is our number-one goal. We will maintain the quality bar before we release Windows Server 2008," he said.

Viridian expected 180 days after Windows Server 2008 RTM

Windows Server Virtualization hypervisor Beta 1, code-named Viridian, is expected to be released 180 days after Windows Server 2008 is released to manufacturing, Laing said.

The week before WinHEC, Microsoft cut major features from Viridian, including live migration, hot-add resources for storage, networking, memory and the processor and limited the number of cores/logical processors supported to 16. These features will make an appearance in future versions of the hypervisor, Microsoft said.

Earlier this month, Microsoft made the hypervisor beta available to testers in its Technology Adoption Program.

Hardware trends forcing industry change

In front of an audience of hardware developers and Microsoft partners, Laing cited a handful of hardware trends that are forcing industry change, such as the transition to 64-bit computing, the move to multi-core technology, as well as virtualization and improvements to power management.

The move to 64-bit computing is happening as DRAM prices are falling. "[Windows Server] 2008 is the last 32-bit OS we will make," Laing said, adding that Microsoft has already observed a significant uptake of 64-bit interest as people download Beta 3.

The transition to multi-core is happening even faster than the move to 64-bit, Laing said. "Windows Server applications have always been designed for multi-processing," he said. "Windows server applications are multi-core-ready."

Interest in better power management is also growing. "Eighteen months ago, customers didn't have this as a concern," he said. "Together as an industry we must work through forums to drive down power consumption of servers. It's good for our business and it's good for the planet," Laing said.

Advances in Windows Vista

Also at the conference, Mike Nash, the executive who once led the company's Trustworthy Computing Initiative and is now a corporate vice president and Windows product manager in the client group, highlighted the advances that Windows Vista has made in terms of support of a wide range of device drivers.

Nash traced back the progress in driver support in the box starting with Windows 2000 with support for 350 device drivers, to XP with support for 10,000 drivers and Windows Vista, which supports 20,000 drivers. Right now, Windows Vista supports about 33,000 device drivers including those in the box and those available from Windows Update, he said.

Nash added that Windows Vista can support 1.9 million devices, up from 1.5 million devices it supported at the product launch late last year.

Margie Semilof contributed to this report.


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