Windows Server 2008 debuts

After some delay, Microsoft has officially released its flagship server operating system, Microsoft Windows Server 2008.

Windows Server 2008 "is the most significant release of Windows Server" since the software was first offered, said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer, who was speaking at an event announcing the launch, held today. "We've done a lot of work in hardening the platform."

The first major upgrade of the server software in almost five years, Windows Server 2008 features major enhancements in installation and security. Ballmer also touted new virtualization features, though the company's virtual machine will not be officially released for another few months.

One of the most prominent features is the introduction of a new installation procedure, called Server Core that can eliminate the installation of unnecessary features. Server Core offers eight different installation paths for tasks that Windows Server is commonly used for. One core is for setting up a print and file server; another is for setting up Web server, and so on. The pre-defined configuration only installs the needed components.

Server Core "provides less surface area for people to attack," Ballmer said. "Headless servers" could be run with no user interface, and with all unnecessary ports shut down.

In addition to Server Core, Windows Server 2008's Web server software, Internet Information Services 7.0, has also been redesigned as a modular service, allowing administrators to add or remove components as needed.

Another new feature introduced with this release is Network Access Protection (NAP). With NAP, administrators can use Windows Server 2008 to set the conditions for permitting client machines to connect to a network. It even works with machines that run non-Microsoft OS'es, like Linux, Ballmer said.

"You can inspect a new participant in the network before you open up and give access to the network to that new machine," Ballmer said. "It ensures that every citizen on your network has the appropriate patches, [and] firewall security."

Other security improvements include the introduction of Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC), which will allow branch offices to log on their own employees without the need to check credential over the wide area network, or keep an entire copy of the organization's Active Directory at the branch location.

"You can deploy Active Directory databases out in branch environments, but do that in a way ' that is secure that local operation does not affect the master directory," Ballmer said.

Windows Server 2008 also promises enhanced virtualization capabilities, through Microsoft's Hyper-V virtual machine, though that technology is only now included in Beta form. Ballmer said Hyper-V will be released within a few months though.

"I think it's well-known we're not the market leader in server virtualization," Ballmer said. He said the company is working on making virtualization easier to deploy and manage. He stressed the virtualization management tools will be similar to other Microsoft management tools. "You don't have to go learn all new concepts in management," he said.

He also noted that Hyper-V will be able to run Linux, in addition to Microsoft OSes.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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