As expected, at WinHEC yesterday, Microsoft officially branded Longhorn Server as “Windows Server 2008” (see packaging at right). Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates joked, “I know it’s a surprise for us to pick something so straightforward, but we thought that would be the best choice.”

Gates also commented on the timing of the product:

“We expect to release this product to manufacturing by the end of the year. Of course, all our releases are driven by making sure that the quality feedback we get really makes it clear that this is ready to go into the mainstream as a high volume product.

Also when we make the release, at the same time we’ll have a beta of our new hypervisor technology, which we call “Viridian.” That’s on a somewhat later schedule, but a lot of the features will be there, so that will be in beta form when the server code itself goes to be final.”

So, Gates is still leaving the door cracked for a potential product delay. The new virtualization technology won’t be fully ready by the time the product ships, and we can expect that the official launch won’t happen until the beginning of 2008.

Windows Server 2008 facts

In concert with the announcement, Microsoft provided journalists with a new fact sheet on Windows Server 2008. The information mostly echoes the publicly-known details about the product, but it’s interesting to see what Microsoft views as the product’s most important features.

It states, “Windows Server 2008 builds on the improved reliability and security of Windows Server 2003 R2 to help organizations create an optimized, more dynamic IT infrastructure by addressing the automation of daily management tasks, tightening security, improving efficiency and increasing availability.”

The top features listed are:

  • A more robust Server Manager for configuration tasks
  • Better scripting with Windows PowerShell
  • Server Core installation for better security and a smaller attack surface
  • Windows Server Virtualization for maximizing resources
  • Expanded Terminal Services for better remote access
  • Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) for remote offices
  • Network Access Protection (NAP) for restricting access to risky devices and systems
  • Failover clustering, dynamic partitioning, and network auto-tuning

Which of the Windows Server 2008 features could potentially have the biggest impact on your network? Join the discussion.