It's that time of year, when budgets are planned, needs are assessed and technology departments everywhere look toward Microsoft to see what's coming down the pipe in the new year. Here's what IT administrators and business desktop managers can expect from the software giant in 2007, along with a couple of surprises slated for 2008 that might pop up this year as a holiday gift.
Virtual PC 2007
This update to Microsoft's virtualization software is currently in public beta (go here to get access to the bits to try it out yourself) and in this release, you get support for virtualization assisted by your processor and the ability to use Windows Vista as the host, the guest or both. The final release of Virtual PC 2007 should, aptly, be in the second half of 2007.
Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2
This service pack has been in beta for a while and is now at the release candidate stage. With this release, you get a roll up of all critical and security hot fixes, but you also get support for Windows Deployment Services, a necessary installation if you want to deploy installations of Windows Vista on clients connected to your network.
This release appears to be well on track, and the target, according to the Windows Service Pack Road Map, is the first quarter of 2007, so we should see this available for download (and, of course, slipstreamed into new channel copies of Windows Server 2003) within the next couple of months.
I've been writing a lot recently on Windows Longhorn Server, and I think it's the best release of Windows Server to date. That might not sound like much. After all, isn't that what we all expect? But Microsoft has really done a lot of things right.
Security is easier, management is better, needs are anticipated and addressed, and so on. The team has taken the best core code improvements from Vista and baked them for almost an additional year, ensuring stability while adding great features. This is one release that you're going to want to deploy immediately in some scenarios, and eventually to the rest of your operation as well. Expect Longhorn Server in the second half of the year, probably in the fourth quarter.