Microsoft next week will distribute a pre-beta of Windows Server 2008 R2 to a select group of testers and highlight the software's virtualization capabilities, integration with Windows 7 and other features.
The company has moved to align Windows Server 2008 R2, which briefly was referred to as Windows Server 7, and the Windows 7 client OS although Microsoft officials would not say if they would ship together.
But users who adopt both will get new security, networking and other features although some of those will require network upgrades like implementing IPv6.
The R2 pre-beta, which is a 64-bit only platform, was given to attendees of the company's WinHEC and TechEd EMEA conferences that were held last week. The R2 server pre-beta comes a week after Microsoft distributed Windows 7 to attendees at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC).
The company said a more widely distributed R2 beta would come next year alongside the Windows 7 beta.Two weeks ago, Microsoft said at its PDC that the Windows 7 beta would ship in early 2009.
Bill Laing, Microsoft's vice president of Windows Server and systems, however, said after the tandem release of the two betas that Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 would not necessarily share the same ship date.
Microsoft observers have been theorizing that Windows 7 could ship as early as mid- to late 2009. Laing said last week Microsoft still plans to ship the R2 server in 2010.
Microsoft also said customers should begin thinking about migrating off Windows Server 2000, which will not run on newer hardware especially multi-core systems.
The R2 beta's integration with Windows 7 was high on the server's feature list. Also on that short list was virtualization, which includes the Live Migration feature pulled from the first release of Microsoft's Hyper-V server virtualization technology, management features such as reduced power consumption, scalability that included support for 256 processors, and an improved Web platform around Internet Information Server (IIS) 7.0.
The Windows 7 integration points include a laundry list of features including DirectAccess, which lets Windows 7 PCs directly connect to intranet-based resources without needing a VPN connection.
While DirectAccess could eliminate VPN infrastructure, users will have to support IPv6 and IPSec on their network in order to access intranet resources.