Microsoft has reached a major milestone today for its Windows Server and Client products. Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista Service pack 1 have been released to manufacturing today which means they will soon be available to IT customers and consumers. Windows Server 2008 replaces the venerable Windows Server 2003 while Vista SP1 upgrades the somewhat controversial Windows Vista. If this looks like a coincidence that Vista SP1 and Server 2008 launched at the same time, it's not. These two products share the same kernel and they were finished together and launched together by design.
Windows Server 2008 will have key enhancements in Virtualization both on the OS kernel side and the hosting side, but the hosting side of the equation won't appear for another six months in the form of Windows Hypervisor. The OS kernel side optimizations come in the form of "enlightened" (AKA paravirtualized) IO optimizations for video, storage, networking, and memory. The Hypervisor will take advantage of these kernel enhancements to reduce the overhead associated with virtualization. Other virtualization vendors will most likely license or negotiate rights to these kernel enhancements in virtualization if they wish to host Windows Server 2008 efficiently. Older server operating systems like Windows 2000 and 2003 server will later be retrofitted with just the I/O optimizations but not the full kernel modifications that optimize Memory and CPU operations.
Windows Server 2008 will also have a stripped down headless operation mode called "Core installation" that increases reliability and security because it reduces the code foot print. This in turn also reduces the need for reboots because components that would normally need to be updated simply won't be installed in the first place. Server 2008 will also have a fast kernel mode IIS web server as well as enhancements to Routing and Remote Access such as SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol). SSTP puts a NAT- and proxy-friendly wrapper around the PPTP and L2TP protocol for trouble free VPN access.
Windows Vista will get some sorely needed enhancements on stability. The size and scope of enhancements and changes to Windows Vista over previous generation Windows XP has resulted in some major growing pains both in OS and driver stability. While many of these issues have already been hammered out, annoying problems like a minute long wait to login a Vista machine in to an Active Directory domain and slow network file copies are now fixed in Vista SP1. Other controversial features like a Windows Vista kill switch have been removed. On the usability front, the aforementioned SSTP feature in Windows Server 2008 can now be leveraged using the new SSTP client in Windows Vista SP1. In the coming weeks, I will be eager to test both of these products.