The next version of Windows Server 2008, which was shown off at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last month, builds on the firm's flagship server operating system to deliver a wealth of new features, a significant number aimed at larger enterprises.
We looked at a pre-beta version of Windows Server 2008 R2 (WS2008 R2), which was tagged as 'Windows Server 7' when installed in line with Microsoft's policy of developing both server and client operating systems in tandem.
Similar to Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 7 desktop operating system, WS2008 R2 appeared very stable, certainly not like a pre-beta, although we did have a limited subset of services running.
The first thing to note is that WS2008 R2 will be 64-bit only, unlike the earlier release, so Microsoft may be assuming firstly an end to the current global financial turbulence, and secondly that smaller firms may be ready to embrace 64-bit systems.
WS2008 R2 looks likely to be released in 2010, with service pack 2 for the current version of WS2008 due a year earlier in 2009. Whether Microsoft will punt some R2 features into this service pack is another question.
Perhaps live migration enabled through the next release of System Centre Virtual Machine Manager, SCVMM 2008, might be acceptable to firms wanting to set up automatic failover, but others might be tempted to move to a VMware system which already does live migration.
Also, VMware may have enhanced its offering by the time WS2008 R2 finally sees the light of day.
The number of roles WS2008 R2 can take on is 16, down from the 18 defined in the earlier release, although the number of enabled features is up from 34 to 38.
Several of these features are being eagerly awaited by some firms, perhaps the most important of which is the ability to migrate virtual machines in real time, so-called 'live migration'.
Enterprise workloads will also get a boost, courtesy of Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) failover, which makes an appearance in R2, maybe to the consternation of standalone vendors like BlueCat Networks, Infoblox and Nominum.
This will involve setting primary and secondary DHCP servers so that, if the primary fails, the secondary server will take over until the primary recovers or is fixed.
DNS Security will also make an appearance in R2 and there will be support for over 64 processor cores using a single OS instance. The .NET framework will be enabled on Server Core, ASP.NET will be available on Internet Information Services and customers will be able to use PowerShell scripting in Server Core.
We'll be looking into this pre-beta release at much greater length later in a full review, although whether all these features finally make it out the door is another matter.