Microsoft has made Windows Server "8" beta available to IT administrators and developers. As with all its major pre-releases, Microsoft is pushing the beta to the widest possible audience in order to receive tons of feedback, the better to refine the product ahead of final release.
Among its multiple capabilities, Windows Server "8" includes robust features related to multi-machine management and automation. The new Hyper-V Network Virtualization allows different units within an organization to share network infrastructure. IT administrators will have the ability to move virtual machines and servers without disrupting network assignments.
Meanwhile, the File Server Transparent Failover apparently streamlines hardware and software maintenance on File Server cluster nodes. "Additionally, Windows Server '8' provides a powerful server application platform that enables you to develop and host the most demanding of application workloads," Bill Laing, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Server and Cloud, wrote in a March 1 posting on the Windows Server Blog.
In theory, that means developers will have the ability to leverage Windows Server "8" to build extremely robust server and Web applications. "Our new IIS 8 Web server provides better security isolation," he added, "and resource sandboxing between applications, native support for Web sockets and the ability to host significantly more sites on a server."
Microsoft originally released its Windows Server "8" developer preview in September 2011, touting the enhancements to virtual networking, storage and infrastructure management. Its obvious competitive target was VMWare, particularly the latter's vSphere 5 platform for x86 server virtualization.
When eWEEK Labs tested that developer preview, it found a Server Manager significantly different than previous versions of the operating system. Not only did it fully embrace the aforementioned multi-machine management approach in place of the traditional one-machine-at-a-time view, but it adopted the same "Metro" interface that increasingly defines Microsoft products from Windows Phone to the upcoming Windows 8.
Overall, eWEEK Labs found that Windows Server "8" had the potential to challenge VMWare and other players in the field. However, IT pros will likely have to wait until the final versionwhich will incorporate feedback from the batabefore they can evaluate the full scope of the offering's capabilities.