Microsoft releases first Longhorn public beta

Microsoft is releasing the first public beta of Windows Server "Longhorn," which is feature-complete

Microsoft is posting the final beta and first publicly available and feature-complete version of Windows Server Longhorn, marking the final time the product will be available for testing and feedback before the long-awaited server update is available later this year.

Microsoft would post Longhorn beta 3 code on a special Web page sometime on Wednesday evening US Eastern Time, senior technical product manager for the software, Ward Ralston, said.

It's the first time anybody who's interested can get their hands on the product, which has been in private beta release only until now.

Wednesday also would be the first time users could get a look at a new scripting and command-line technology, Microsoft PowerShell, at work from within Longhorn server, he said. The technology, which allows administrators to more easily automate tasks across Windows servers on a network, previously was available as a separate add-on, but will be built directly into Longhorn and is making its first appearance in a test version of the product.

Customers also could get a first look in beta 3 at two new Longhorn features -- a new always-on firewall in Server Manager and an installation option called Server Core, Ralston said.

Server Manager in Longhorn was designed to keep the server firewall up 100 per cent of the time, which meant server administrators would have to unlock the firewall using the Server Manager console when they wanted to install components, he said. This allowed administrators to install components needed for certain server roles, leaving anything extraneous out of the system.

The server also would intelligently know what dependencies and restraints the roles would have once installed, and would configure the server automatically to run most effectively in those scenarios, Ralston said.

Server Core is a minimal installation option for Windows Server that only installs components for eight server roles -- out of a possible 18 -- on the server and automatically configures them for the most reliable performance. This limited the amount of code that needed to run on the server, and also would decrease the number of and time allotted for updates because the server would only need to be rebooted for updates related only to those roles, Ralston said.

Longhorn is due for final release sometime in the second half of the year, a time frame that, in typical Microsoft fashion, was revised several times.

In fact, Ralston said the Longhorn team was proud to have gotten beta 3 out on time; its release was scheduled for the first half of 2007, which means it was due by the end of June and according to Microsoft's schedule is actually out the door early. The company is well known not only for pushing back software release deadlines, but also for meeting them at the last minute

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