Windows 2000 Datacentre to go beta next week

Datacentre is nearly on its way to testers, but it isn't the end of the road for Windows 2000.

Microsoft says it will deliver to 300 beta testers next Monday the first public beta of its Windows 2000 Datacentre package.

Datacentre is the high end of Microsoft's planned Windows 2000 lineup, with the other SKUs being Professional, Server and Advanced Server. Microsoft has said to expect Datacentre to ship 90 to 120 days after the rest of the Windows 2000 offerings.

While it's a given that Datacentre won't ship until sometime next year, it looks like the commercial shipment of the other Windows 2000 SKUs is unlikely before 2000, either. Microsoft partners say Windows 2000 is running later than expected, and that Microsoft will be lucky to release the other three SKUs to manufacturing before the end of this year. December is the latest internal Microsoft target for the product to go gold, Microsoft partners say.

Microsoft last week announced Release Candidate 2 of Windows 2000 Professional, Server and Advanced Server. The 650,000 Windows 2000 beta testers are expected to begin receiving RC2 disks in the coming week or two.

But RC2 is not the final cut of the operating system before it goes gold. Sources close to the company say Microsoft is shooting to deliver a third release candidate to a wide group of testers, and most likely will follow up with an indeterminate number of release candidates that will go to fewer and fewer testers before the product is released to manufacturing. Once the product reaches that stage, system vendors will put it through more tests before preloading it on new systems.

Microsoft officials have positioned Windows 2000 Datacentre as a product that will be able to handle many of the same chores as mainframe operating systems. Datacentre is slated to include four-node clustering, rolling upgrade support, up to 32-node network load balancing and up to 32-way SMP support.