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Tech Ed Windows Timeline Unveiled at Keynote

The opening keynote address at Tech-Ed Monday featured Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Windows business, who described a number of upcoming milestones for Microsoft's new products.

Microsoft notably has been opaque about its product finalization plans, particularly with its Windows 7 operating system. The company has been taking a cautious approach after earlier miscues with Windows Vista left its partner community playing catch-up on driver support. However, Veghte seemed upbeat about Windows 7 readiness during the keynote.

Veghte confirmed on Monday that Microsoft expects Windows 7 will have "broad availability" during the holidays in 2009, and that the company was "tracking very well for it." Windows 7 is currently available as a release candidate test version.

Windows Server 2008 R2, also available as a release candidate, will similarly be rolled out as a product for the holidays.

The Windows news was the bombshell delivered so far at Tech-Ed. The event is running 750 technical sessions throughout the week in Los Angeles, with more than 7,000 people attending overall, according to Veghte.

Another milestone was Veghte's announcement that a technical preview has begun for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, which was formerly known by the code name, "Kilimanjaro." This news originally leaked out back in December.

Veghte also mentioned that Microsoft Office 2010 will have a technical preview starting in July. However, only Tech-Ed attendees and select invitees will be able to get the bits, he added. Last month, Microsoft kicked off its new 2010 product line. Exchange Server 2010 is part of that line, and it's currently available as a public beta.

Iain McDonald, general manager of the Windows Server Group, described three new features in Windows Server 2008 R2.

First, McDonald said that Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology, which comes with Windows Server 2008 R2, will now support more than 64 logical processors. Previously, Hyper-V could only support 32 logical processors.

Second, Microsoft is introducing something called "processor compatibility mode" in Windows Server 2008 R2. It's a hardware support feature that will let users run two Hyper-V nodes across different processors, provided that those two processors come from the same manufacturer. So, Hyper-V can now be run with different Intel chips or different AMD chips, but not a mixture of the two.

Lastly, McDonald noted that Windows Server 2008 R2 now includes a new file classification infrastructure. In a demo, he showed that a memo with a confidential classification could be found in an e-mail attachment, even as a .TIFF file. Windows Server includes built-in optical character recognition technology that enables the text to be searched. The Windows Server Division further explains the nuances of the file classification infrastructure in a blog.

Mark Russinovich, a Microsoft technical fellow, rounded out the discussion by profiling some of the enterprise features and tools in Windows 7. For instance, he demonstrated how BitLocker, a security feature first introduced in Vista, could help manage removable drives. He checked an option, "deny write access to removable drives not protected by BitLocker," to show how users can be prevented from using insecure portable drives.

Another useful feature in Windows 7 is a "problem step recorder." This feature can collect print-screens saved in an HTML file. The IT help desk can check these print-screens to actually see what an end user experienced before encountering a problem.

Russinovich praised the use of the PowerShell V2 scripting engine, which can target machines remotely and move Vista shims to Windows 7, which should be compatible, he added. Basically, PowerShell V2 lets the user script with group policy settings.

Windows 7 also features the use of virtual hard disks (VHDs), which work like physical hard disks. You have to partition them and run anti-virus software on them. However, you can also boot Windows 7 from a VHD. In addition, you can configure VHDs so that they are dynamically expanding (that is, not fixed in size).

Other enterprise features in Windows 7 were mentioned by various presenters. BranchCache technology makes it easier to retrieve stored data across an organization without delays. DirectAccess helps provision remote users. Microsoft also offers MED-V desktop virtualization and App-V application virtualization management solutions for Windows 7 through its Software Assurance licensing.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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