Closely following the company's public preview of Windows 8, Microsoft has released a beta version of its Windows Server 8 operating system.
Announced last September, Windows Server 8 updates the code base for Microsoft's flagship server OS, the current version of which is Windows Server 2008. The beta version will allow administrators to test the OS and offer feedback to Microsoft as it finalizes the software for commercial release. Microsoft did not disclose when the final production-ready version of the OS would be available for purchase.
A major update, Windows Server 8 contains numerous improvements in virtualization, multi-machine management and application hosting capabilities, noted Bill Laing, Microsoft corporate vice president for server and cloud, in a blog post announcing the release.
With virtualization, Windows Server 8 allows administrators to build virtual networks, allowing different business units or customers to share a single physical network while maintaining complete independence from the other virtual networks. Helping in disaster recovery and continuity of operations, another new feature allows file shares to be moved between nodes without stopping the server applications that use these files.
In terms of hosting applications, Windows Server 8 will include a copy of .NET Framework 4.5, which includes new capabilities to run a program concurrently across multiple processor cores. The Web server software IIS (Internet Information Server) has been upgraded to provide better security isolation and to manage more sites per server. The PowerShell command line interface has been strengthened by the addition of 2,300 additional commands.
To run the free beta version, a server will need a 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor, a minimum 512MB of working memory and 32GB on a disk. Users can upgrade to the new beta OS from existing versions of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, though they will not be able to upgrade to subsequent releases from this release.