RC1 edges Microsoft further to Windows Server 2008 launch

Software vendor makes second 'release candidate' version of new OS available to users

Microsoft Wednesday took another step toward the commercial delivery of Windows Server 2008, making the second "release candidate" version of the server operating system available for download from its Web site.

Under Microsoft's naming convention, the new version is called Release Candidate 1. The company said that the primary addition to the RC1 software is an enhancement to the operating system's Group Policy technology, which enables systems administrators to automate management tasks across multiple systems via Active Directory. The new Group Policy Preferences feature, formerly known as PolicyMaker Standard Edition and Policy Share Manager, expands the types of operating system and application settings that can be automated to include mapped drives, scheduled tasks and Start menu settings, among others.

According to a posting on the Windows Server Division WebLog, more than 1.8 million customers have downloaded the earlier beta releases of Windows Server 2008, which originally was code-named Longhorn Server. Microsoft officials said that RC1 gives users and Microsoft business partners one of their last chances to test the operating system and provide feedback to the software vendor before the scheduled launch of Windows Server 2008 on Feb. 27.

Microsoft, which last month announced pricing for the five editions of Windows Server 2008 that it will offer, plans to release the operating system to manufacturing before the launch date. The launch, scheduled to be held in Los Angeles with satellite announcements in other locations worldwide, will also include SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

The software vendor is describing the simultaneous rollout of the three products as its "biggest enterprise launch wave" thus far. Microsoft said Wednesday that as part of the rollout, it plans to spend more than US$150 million on "outreach and demand generation" among IT users and developers.

In a separate blog posting yesterday, Microsoft said that about 3,100 IT administrators have already earned Windows Server 2008 certifications, while another 140,000 users and developers have been trained on both the new operating system and Visual Studio 2008. According to the posting, the company expects to have trained 300,000 people worldwide by the February launch date and 700,000 by next August.

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