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February 2007 CTP of Windows Server “Longhorn” Released

As a number of sites and blogs have reported, last weekend we posted another Community Technology Preview (CTP) build of WindowsServer “Longhorn” to the Microsoft Connect site for our TechBeta participants. The February 2007 CTP is another milestone on the march to Beta 3, which is still on track for the first half of this year, and it includes a number of enhancements to existing server roles and features, plus some UI changes – most notably in the Server Manager tool. MSDN and TechNet subscribers also will be able to get the February 2007 CTP from their Subscriber Downloads site in the next few days.

Just to set expectations correctly, a CTP build represents a snapshot of our development process rather than a full beta, so CTP releases are generally meant only for testing and evaluation. The technical term for this is “tire kicking”. CTPs are a great opportunity for the broader community to see our progress as we integrate new features and functionality, but progress being what it is, we’ll sometimes see new functionality bringing new bugs into the mix. For example, in the February 2007 CTP, there is an issue with Windows SharePoint Services failing to install as a result of a late-breaking change we made to the integrated database engine. Note that this is not an issue with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, which has already shipped, and we’ll make sure this bug is fixed by the next CTP.

Likewise, there are some other issues that we already know about (which is why they’re called “known issues”), such as the mysterious disappearance of the Group Policy Management Console and the WDS Transport Deployment role service. Don’t worry – the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have been assigned to the case and both items will be back in time for Beta 3. Also, there is a bug when installing some roles in Server Manager, where the application crashes before installation is complete. The installation of the role has been successful but the configuration may not have been applied. To fix this, just restart the computer and then reconfigure the installed roles using the appropriate management tools. Again, this will be fixed in Windows Server “Longhorn” Beta 3.

Of course, there are lots of positive things to talk about as well, including the fact that Windows Firewall is on by default for new installations; there is now a separate, fully-configurable Application Server role; and we’ve added a bunch of new role services and features including (get ready to cheer) Remote Server Administration Tools (hurray!). These tools allow you to manage the roles and features on another Windows Server “Longhorn” box – up until now, you had to install those roles and features on the local server before you could get the tools to perform remote management. Only a few tools are provided with this build (Active Directory Certificate Services, IIS 7.0, Terminal Services, Failover Clustering and Network Load Balancing), but there are more on the way.

Finally, for you Server Core fans out there (and who isn’t?), you’ll be excited to hear that Print Server and Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services are now available roles for Server Core installations. And with more roles and features available to add to your Server Core installation, it will be handy to have the new oclist.exe command line utility that keeps track of which roles and features are installed.

This build also marks the appearance of many of the various editions in which we will release Windows Server “Longhorn”. The list of editions shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people, with Windows Server “Longhorn” Standard, Windows Server “Longhorn” Enterprise, and Windows Server “Longhorn” Datacenter, each being available in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions. One other change where the SKUs are concerned is the availability of a separate Windows Server “Longhorn” for Itanium-based Systems edition. This is different from what we did with Windows Server 2003, where we had separate Itanium versions of the Enterprise and Datacenter SKUs, but as disclosed before, this edition will focus primarily on the Application Server and database workloads.

We expect to release one more CTP before Beta 3 and we hope to have it soon. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment and let us know how we’re doing.