Microsoft logo Continuing a trend that began with Office 2007 and was followed by Windows Vista, Microsoft announces that the Beta 3 version of its next generation server operating system is available for download and will go into manufacturing before the end of the year.Windows Server 2008 (how's that for a catchy name?) spent the last year at version Beta 2 and is now considered "feature complete." The new operating system has been on schedule, at least as much on schedule as any Microsoft product can be, and has enjoyed relative anonymity in comparison to the headline grabbing Windows Vista and Office 2007 products. The completed features include the following: * Server Manager: A unified management console to help administrators quickly provision new servers and effectively manage existing servers. * PowerShell: A command-line environment built on top of the .Net runtime and .Net framework that provides a glimmer of hope to the keyboard cowboys out there who would love to kill their mouse. * Server Core: With Server Core, Microsoft answers the question: does a server really need a full-featured GUI or a GUI at all? Perhaps the most compelling feature of Windows Server 2008 (and an obvious hat tip to the Unix-based operating systems of the world), Server Core allows administrators to deploy only the parts of the operating system that they require without having to install unnecessary modules that can impact performance or stability. * Terminal Services Gateway and Terminal Services RemoteApp: Fighting back against competitors like Citrix and eliminating the need for a VPN, the updates to Terminal Services will help to support the growing trend of geographically distributed teams and remote workers. * Internet Information Server (IIS) 7.0: A new version of Microsoft's ubiquitous web server product is available with new features (configuration via modules and within a text file) that are strangely reminiscent of a certain open source web server product. Along with these new features, Windows Server 2008 includes the following components for security and stability: Network Access Protection, Active Directory Rights Management Services, and Read-Only Domain Controllers. There is one glaring omission in the list above. The biggest broken promise in Windows Server 2008 is that the virtualization product will not make it into the release that will go to manufacturing. A large number of IT administrators are anxiously awaiting Microsoft's response to growing competition from the likes of JumpBox, Xen, and VMWare. The fact that the updated virtualization component is not available will likely cause some enterprises to wait with fingers crossed until at least Service Pack 1. And hey, it wouldn't be a Microsoft product if it came in a single variation. Therefore, Microsoft is making Windows Server 2008 available in five different flavors with five equally creative names: * Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition: provides key server functionality across most server roles and features, includes both full and Server Core installation options * Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition: includes everything in the Standard edition, plus the addition of enterprise technologies such as failover clustering and Active Directory Federation Services * Windows Server 2008 Datacenter Edition: includes everything in the Enterprise edition, plus support for additional memory and processors, and unlimited virtual image use rights * Windows Web Server 2008: a stripped down version of the operating system designed specifically for use as a Web and applications server, does not include other server roles or the Server Core installation option * Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems: Windows Web Server 2008 for Intel Itanium 64-bit processors If the information here has piqued your curiosity (and how could it not?), then head over to the "horse's mouth" and get all the information you could possible consume about Windows Server 2008.