'Longhorn' Nears the Gate
Published: April 11, 2007
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft inched closer to releasing Windows Server "Longhorn" last week when it issued the April Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the new operating system. The April CTP, which introduces new features designed to streamline the set up and administration of the operating system, should be the final private build before Longhorn becomes available for public testing with Beta 3.
It's been a long and difficult road for Windows Server Longhorn, which became a development project shortly after Windows Server 2003 shipped exactly four years ago. Despite the delays the operating system has faced, Microsoft is very much interested in getting Longhorn out the door before the end of the year and maintaining its track record of shipping a new version of the server OS every four years. For that matter, so are its customers who have signed long-term Software Assurance maintenance contracts.
You will remember the troubles of 2004, when Microsoft was forced to ditch planned features, notably the revolutionary Windows File System (WinFS), to keep the Longhorn development effort on track. That was during the big push to develop Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1, which overhauled security in those operating systems, and before Microsoft's lab in Redmond, Washington, had split Longhorn into the client OS (which went on to become Windows Vista) and the server OS, which still goes by its code name.
The years went by, work continued, and Microsoft managed to keep Windows Vista somewhat on the revised schedule--it became available to business customers late last year, although Microsoft missed the all-important 2006 holiday buying season with the consumer versions. Windows Server Longhorn also seems to be on track after the first two betas shipped in May 2005 and June 2006, respectively, and general availability (GA) still slated for the second half of 2007.
Last week, Microsoft posted the April CTP of Longhorn Server. Insiders were not forecasting another CTP before Beta 3, which is expected to be the final milestone before GA. It also caught some people by surprise that the new CTP introduces a number of enhancements.
According to the Windows Server Division WebLog, the April CTP features general performance and user interface enhancements. More specifically, it introduces new "Server Core" roles, which refers to the capability to set up Longhorn Server with only the pieces needed to accomplish specific roles, thereby decreasing the complexity of the operating system and lessening its attack surface.
Microsoft now supports a total of six roles with the April CTP, including Active Directory Domain Services, Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services, DHCP, DNS, File, and Print. Other options have been added for installing Windows Media Server and Windows Server Virtualization roles when the Server Core installation option is selected.
With the April CTP, Longhorn also includes the new command line interface, called Windows PowerShell, within the operating system. Administrators are also presented with a "syntax cheat sheet" containing the most common command line tasks administrators will want to run, which should help administrators navigate their servers in the brave new world of graphical-less interfaces.
On the security front, password and firewall features have been improved. According to Microsoft, administrators can now configure multiple password settings per domain through ADSI Edit, enabling finer-grained password capabilities. The Windows Firewall has also been fully enabled by default, with all ports blocked. When an administrator adds a new feature or turns on one of Longhorn's roles, Windows Firewall will automatically open only the ports necessary for basic functionality of that role or feature, Microsoft says.
After Microsoft's private testers find all the bugs, the April CTP will morph into Beta 3, which will become available in the next 90 days, according to Microsoft. That timeline potentially places the release of Beta 3 in July, which conflicts with Microsoft's previous intentions of shipping Beta 3 in the first half of 2007.
When it comes down to it, there's no telling what Microsoft will do. Rumors were swirling in February that Beta 3 would be delivered during the first week of March. Obviously, Microsoft wasn't done innovating and added the new features we see here with the April CTP. Windows Server Longhorn is now reportedly "feature complete" with the April CTP, Microsoft product managers have been quoted as saying. If that turns out to be the case, perhaps the product is on track for a 2007 release after all.
Microsoft Moves Forward on Post Vista Windows OSes
New Windows Server Boss: 'Longhorn' On Schedule
Longhorn Beta 2 to See New Active Directory Features
Microsoft Cuts WinFS from Longhorn to Make 2006 Ship Date
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