Now that Windows Vista is finally finished, it's time to turn the spotlight onto the next version of Windows due to hit: Longhorn Server.
Microsoft has been releasing regular test builds of Longhorn Server for more than a year, to far less fanfare (and criticism) than Vista garnered during the test process.
The Windows Server team is looking to release a new Longhorn Server Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build before the end of November, Laing said. Another Longhorn Server CTP will hit in late January 2007. And some time shortly after that, Microsoft will deliver Longhorn Server Beta 3, he said. Microsoft's IT department already has rolled out more than 100 Longhorn Server beta systems internally, Laing said.
The final Longhorn Server is due to ship in the latter half of 2007.
With Longhorn Server, "for the first time (in Microsoft's history), the server won't look like the Windows client plus a bunch of stuff (on top)," said Bill Laing, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Server division.
Like Vista, Longhorn Server was designed to be componentizable and modular. Microsoft partners and customers will be able to choose among 20 different roles (such as file server, print server, domain controller, etc.) when configuring Longhorn Server.
The so-called Longhorn Server Core offering -- the stripped-down, Window-less version of Longhorn Server -- will offer users a choice of only four roles (file server, domain controller, DNS server or DHCP server).
By making Longhorn Server more modular, Microsoft is aiming to make the product easier to install, configure and monitor, Laing said. The forthcoming Longhorn Server release will add a number of other new, previously disclosed features, as well, including Internet Information Services 7.0; Network Protection and Access capabilities; and terminal services gateway support.
"We feel like this is really going to be a customer-driven release," Laing said. "And it's helping to get our developers on the rhythm of regular releases" every two years, alternating between major and minor updates.
Laing said the team already has a handful of members planning what will be part of Longhorn Server R2, the Longhorn Server release tentatively scheduled for 2009 (if Microsoft manages to stick to its every two-year timetable).