Microsoft 'Vail,' 'Aurora' Server Builds Are Now in Preview

Microsoft has released preview builds of its "Vail" Windows Home Server, as well as its "Aurora" Windows Small Business Server. "Aurora" emphasizes cloud interoperability, which plays into Microsoft's larger cloud strategy.

Microsoft has released preview builds of its Windows Home Server, codenamed Vail, and its Windows Small Business Server, codenamed Aurora.

The new Vail build adds native support for Mac OS, and can be downloaded here. Other features include improved multi-PC backup and restore, simplified setup, media streaming outside a home or office, and a variety of development and customization tools. Microsoft offered no word on a release date for a final version of Vail, but this preview build is presumably much closer to a finished product than the beta released in late April.

Also available for download: the Vail Preview SDK, which includes API references, how-to documents, templates for building add-ins with Visual Studio 2008 and examples of complete add-ins.

In keeping with its traditional ramp-up strategy, Microsoft is soliciting comment about the platform. "You can provide feedback about the new build through our Connect site and even log ideas or feature suggestions for future versions of Windows Home Server," Jonas Svensson, Community Program manager for the Windows Home Server team, wrote in an Aug. 16 posting on The Windows Blog.

Microsoft also made the latest preview of Windows Small Business Server, codenamed Aurora, available for download.

Aurora "represents a significant departure from our traditional fully on-premise model," Kevin Kean, general manager of Windows Home and Small Business Servers, wrote in an Aug. 16 posting on The Official SBS Blog. "Aurora extends the ease of use of our traditional SBS products while simultaneously being a great platform for small businesses wanting to combine traditional and cloud computing."

To that end, Aurora's features include advanced backup and file-restoration features, with automatic daily backups of PCs on a network; the server, along with the computers and documents connected to it, can also be accessed from common Web browsers. Given Microsoft's recent corporate focus on the cloud, Kean added, it's no surprise that Aurora also includes access to "pay-as-you-go online services to extend the server functionality without increasing workload and maintenance needs."

More information about Aurora, which supports up to 25 user accounts, can be found here. Microsoft also released a version of Windows Server Solutions SDK, which includes an Aurora toolset with how-to documents, API references and templates for building add-ins with Visual Studio 2008. Developers can leverage the SDK to heighten the server's interoperability with cloud services.

By incorporating more cloud-centric features into Aurora, Microsoft is emphasizing yet again that it regards the cloud as the future of business IT. In several events over the course of the summer, company executives have pushed an "all in" cloud strategy.

"We are going to lead with the cloud," Microsoft COO Kevin Turner said during a speech at the company's Financial Analyst Meeting July 29. "Leading with the cloud actually helps better position Microsoft to sell more on-premises products than we ever have before ... very strategically it signals a very clear commitment to our customers and to our partners."

Microsoft also envisions its cloud strategy as stealing customers from IBM and Novell, among others. Azure, Microsoft's cloud-development platform, has around 10,000 users; the company also claims to control around 20 percent of the virtualization market. However, cloud initiatives have yet to contribute significantly to Microsoft's bottom line, which is currently dominated by traditional software products such as Windows 7.