RealTime IT News

Microsoft's Triple Play Beta Release

UPDATED: SEATTLE – It's official. Microsoft has released beta 2 of its Vista operating system. With its "Longhorn" Server system and Office 2007 all available, the release marks the first time Microsoft has had all three of its primary software products available for testing at the same time.

Speaking at the annual WinHec conference here, chairman and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, covered a range of technologies in his keynote address centered on Vista and the "ecosystem" of PCs, mobile computing devices and software.

"We see the PC changing," said Gates, noting the advent of bigger screens, more mobile systems and "the relationship with telephony" via such applications as VoIP. He also touted the advent of 64-bit computing , and multi-core processors which provide a better platform for software innovation.

"We're making a shift and a number of our products are only going to be 64-bit, like Exchange Server 2007," said Gates. "We're sending a clear message that 64-bit is here to say and will be pervasive."

Although 64-bit processors are most widely found in servers today and newer desktop systems, Gates predicted that in the next three years all new desktop computers will be 64-bit as will most mobile systems.

"We'll no longer be talking about catching up to proprietary or mainframe performance; we'll be able to tackle what used to be high-end applications."

Gates also announced that Microsoft is moving aggressively to put virtualization technology to work in Longhorn, the server edition of Vista.

Jeff Woolsey, lead program manager at Microsoft's Windows division, demonstrated new VM capabilities in Longhorn running multiple versions of Server 2003 and even a non-Microsoft operating system, Redhat Linux. "We're protecting our customer's investment to be confident knowing you can easily migrate to Longhorn Server" said Woolsey.

Although Longhorn won't ship till next year, Woolsey claimed several virtualization breakthroughs. "We've shattered the 3.6 gigabyte memory limit for each virtual machine to 32 gigabytes." He also showed the ability to "hot add" a network adapter with a few clicks of the mouse. "No other hardware virtualization provides this capability for Windows," said Woolsey.

But Raghu Raghuram, vice-president of platform products at virtualization market leader VMware, noted VMware's been offering a beta of its new server software, due out next month, which offers memory up to 16 gigabytes per VM. Also, Raghuram said VMware has only been limited by the operating system so whatever features Microsoft adds to the OS, it will be able to take advantage of.

"Microsoft is late to the game. This is their first generation hypervisor virtualization software and won't be available until months after Longhorn is released, Raghuram told internetnews.com. He said VMware enterprise focus is on failover protection of the overall infrastructure, not just individual servers. For example, if a server fails, VMware's software is designed to automatically move any VMs over to another server.

Will Poole, Microsoft's senior vice president, Windows client, talked up Vista's improved security features. He said Vista's BitLocker Drive Encryption will protect data from being used by unauthorized users or even downloaded inappropriately to thumb drives. Poole said he was shocked to hear from some CIOs they actually used glue guns to seal off the USB ports so their employees wouldn't use thumb drives to copy company data files off their computers.

Poole said Vista's group policy feature can limit what information employees are allowed to transfer off their computer hard drives.

Separately, Microsoft announced a beta 2 of WinFX, a unified programming model that is a superset of the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0. WinFX combines with the technologies of Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation and a technology for managing digital identities; code-named InfoCard.

Corrects Jeff Woolsey's comments regarding Longhorn Server, not Vista, and clarifies Microsoft's "breakthroughs" in virtualization in the beta.