Microsoft ships release versions of Windows server OSes

The company has finished work on the 2011 updates to Small Business Server Essentials and Windows Home Server, and has released the OSes to hardware makers

Microsoft has finalised the release versions of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Home Server 2011, paving the way for the server operating systems to appear on hardware by May.

The server OS updates, code-named Aurora and Vail respectively, have been signed off by their engineering teams, Microsoft announced via two blog posts on Tuesday. The sign-off comes almost two months after the release candidates for both OSes were sent out.

Server makers have already started putting the final OSes on their hardware, and these products should go on sale in May. In addition, the software will be available for download via TechNet or MSDN subscription in early April, Microsoft said.

Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (SBS 2011 Essentials) is targeted at very small businesses. Essentially an entry-level business implementation of Windows Home Server, it supports up to 25 users. It provides an underlying platform for data backup, sharing, group applications like databases, and remote access capabilities. However, it does not include Exchange Server or SharePoint, unlike the more traditional Small Business Server 2011 Standard (formerly SBS 7), which was released in December.

Windows Home Server, which is based on Windows Server 2008 R2, allows underlying hardware to share files and back up data for up to 10 separate PCs. It handles printer sharing, remote access capabilities for Windows Home Server-controlled computers, and media streaming. It will also track the antivirus and firewall status of computers on the network.

Both OSes have broadly the same feature sets as their predecessors, although the majority of features have now been tuned for Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 7. Windows Home Server 2011 is also now capable of managing and backing up Macs.

However, both releases have been criticised for dropping the popular Drive Extender feature, which allowed multiple hard drives of different types to be combined into single storage 'pools'.

Hardware maker HP declared shortly after the announcement that Microsoft was cutting support for Drive Extender that it will not be creating any hardware explicitly for Windows Home Server 2011. However, a range of independent developers are working on creating add-ins to Windows Home Server 2011 that will reinstate Drive Extender.

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