Longhorn rebadged and ready for action

It’s official. Microsoft’s Longhorn server operating system has a new name … Microsoft Windows Server 2008.

While it lacks a catchy title the new OS represents a critical release for the software giant as it strives to maintain its share of the massive corporate server market.

Slated to ship by the end of the year the OS contains a number of new security and management technologies and features that Microsoft hopes will keep customers happy and drive rapid adoption of the platform.

The company has taken a locked-down approach to the design of Windows Server 2008 with all user and application access closed by default.

“You don’t lock a server down any more you actually unlock them” says Windows Server senior product manager Ward Ralston. “We call it a ‘shields up’ approach.”

Administrators can dictate not only which applications can use which ports but also which users and which computers. Such access can be mandated through group policy.

According to Ralston Windows Server 2008 has a range of security features that will make it attractive to any organisations looking to upgrade their infrastructure.

One of the most notable is a new security framework called Network Access Protection (NAP). Built on a range of industry standards such as IPsec NAP allows an administrator to restrict the network access rights of PCs deemed by the OS to be “unhealthy”.

If for example a mobile user disables their firewall or doesn’t update their antivirus protection NAP will restrict access until remediation steps are taken.

Windows Server 2008 also incorporates Internet Information Services (IIS) version 7.0. Acknowledging past versions left a lot to be desired Ralston says this version has been designed to be modular. This approach means administrators can install and enable only the components they need for their particular hosting requirements thereby reducing the chance of external attacks.

“Security is really at the core of this release” he says. “We have taken on board a lot of feedback from our customers.”

Beta 3 of Windows Server 2008 is now available and Microsoft plans to release the OS to manufacture by the end of the year.