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With Latest Server, Microsoft Rides The 64-Bit Range

The OS formerly known as Longhorn is ready to run. Should you jump on or get the hell out of its way? We've launched a new type of Rolling Review

Let's face facts: The Windows Server 2008 Los Angeles launch gala will be a requiem for 32-bit computing. Microsoft's claim that more than half of server downloads are now of the 64-bit variety confirms that IT is looking to wring full advantage of the 64-bit-capable processors pervasively deployed in enterprise data centers. But is smashing through the 4-Gbyte RAM barrier all we have to look forward to, or will additions and improvements--including Network Access Protection, high availability, virtualization, Server Core, PowerShell, SMB 2.0, IIS7, a completely rewritten IP stack, and an updated version of Terminal Services--live up to their billing?

To find out, we're launching a new breed of Rolling Review, bringing Windows Server 2008 into our Boston Real-World Partner Labs and analyzing the most intriguing new features, one by one. Where competition exists, we'll invite other vendors for bake-offs. When a capability is unique, we'll put it through its paces and tell you what we find.

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Microsoft is surely hoping Windows 2008 avoids the, shall we say, lack of enterprise enthusiasm that met Vista. Of course, there's good reason IT held off on Vista, but given the number of new features in Windows Server 2008, does it make sense to do a limited deployment sooner rather than later?

Many shops will sit tight no matter what Redmond does. Ask any CIO for rules to live by, and the No. 1 response might well be, "Thou shalt not deploy before SP1." Still, Microsoft seems more focused on bringing enterprise customers into the development and testing process this time around. Since the Beta 2 release of Longhorn, 30 Microsoft Technology Adoption Program partners have been running Windows Server 2008 in production across 779 role-based servers. Bill Laing, general manager of the Windows Server development team, emphasized that Longhorn development has been highly customer focused compared with previous rollouts. Microsoft is clearly betting on its Technology Adoption Program to jump-start that early-adopter base and generate buzz around Windows Server 2008. And as usual, there's no more aggressive--or earlier--adopter than the company's internal IT organization. Jim DuBois, general manager of Microsoft's infrastructure and security team, says the company's Web site has been running entirely on Win2k8/IIS7 since Beta 3. That's 84 servers running the sixth-most-visited Web site in the world, with an average of 15,000 hits per second.

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