A few weeks ago, I suggested you get started outfitting your test lab for the upcoming release of .Net Server - the successor to Windows 2000 Server (see below for a link to that newsletter). Microsoft is now making the pre-release software available so you can begin your lab testing.
The Windows .Net Server Customer Preview Program (http://www.microsoft.com/windows.netserver/preview/default.mspx) was actually launched on the day that the above-mentioned newsletter hit your mailbox, but I did want you to have a couple of weeks to begin the task of assembling your hardware test bed before bringing up the details of the testing program.
There is no charge for the software (but it is time limited: It expires approximately one year after installation) but you will pay shipping and handling fees if you elect to have the product shipped to you on CD. Downloading it incurs no additional charge from Microsoft, but could be very time consuming.
The CD kit contains:
* Windows .Net Enterprise Server CD.
* Windows .Net Enterprise Server 64-Bit Edition CD.
* Windows .Net Server Resource CD.
* A unique Product Key, required for installation.
* Links to additional Web-based documentation.
* Access to private Windows .Net Server newsgroups.
Those choosing to download will have access to:
* Windows .Net Standard Server.
* Windows .Net Enterprise Server.
* Windows .Net Enterprise Server 64-bit Edition.
If you choose the download option, Microsoft will e-mail you instructions on accessing the software as well as the information you need to access the private Windows .Net Server newsgroups.
This is the first Release Candidate (RC1) for .Net Server and will undoubtedly be changed - at least a little - before the OS is officially launched. There is also likely to be a second release candidate that will probably be made available to those who have registered for the Customer Preview Program.
It's not going to cost you anything, it gives you a boost in being ready for .Net Server when it finally ships, and it could save you a lot of trouble further down the road. Any testing you do now means less for you to do later. You'll still want to put the final released product through its paces in the lab before installing it in your production network, but by running RC1 now, you can find those areas you'll need to concentrate on when testing the final product. Go for it!