As part of an announcement at the TechEd show today in Los Angeles, Microsoft said that Windows Server 2008 R2 RC (Release Candidate) is now available and that the final version will ship in the same timeframe as client OS Windows 7, which has been generally available as a release candidate for a week now.
As expected, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 will be ready for customers in time for the holiday shopping season. This is something that industry analysts and bloggers have speculated for months, but Microsoft has not confirmed until now.
"With early RC testing and extensive partner feedback we've received, Windows 7 is tracking well for holiday availability," said Microsoft senior VP of Windows Business Bill Veghte during today's keynote speech at Tech Ed.
Veghte touted in his speech that the one-two punch of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will help businesses become more efficient and save money. Two Windows 7 features that utilize Windows Server 2008 R2 that Microsoft believes will accomplish this goal are DirectAccess for connecting to corporate networks without the use of a VPN, and BranchCache for speeding up access to files in remote offices that are away from corporate headquarters.
In a briefing late last week, Ward Ralston, a Microsoft Windows Server marketing executive, touted the efficiencies of the Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 union.
"Companies that have been testing DirectAccess and BranchCache are seeing improvements in employee productivity. They are also seeing thousands of dollars of bottom line savings by eliminating VPNs and reducing WAN bandwidth," he said.
Microsoft also revealed today three interesting features new to the release candidate of Windows Server 2008 R2:
Hyper-V scales higher - Microsoft's server virtualization software will now give users the ability to support 64 logical processors, with the goal of getting more out of hardware and server availability and handling the biggest enterprise workloads. Previously, Hyper-V could only scale up to 32 processors.
Processor Compatibility Mode - Allows the migration of virtual machines to another physical server with a different CPU version (but not to a machine with a CPU made by a different chipmaker.) In the past, to move a Hyper-V virtual machine to different hardware, the CPUs had to be the same, forcing users to buy new hardware.
File Classification Infrastructure - FCI is a built-in feature that allows IT pros to classify and manage data in file servers. Data can be classified as having high, medium or low business impact, and then users can back up the most important data more often and on higher-speed storage.
Windows Server 2008 R2 RC is available for download here.