Some 20 local enterprises are already using the pre-release of Microsoft's next-generation server operating system, Windows Server 2008, which is slated for release early next year.
Formerly code-named Longhorn, Windows Server 2008 will succeed the Windows Server 2003 operating system and introduce a large number or architectural and technological enhancements.
Microsoft Australia's director of server and tools, Martin Gregory, said there has been a good early adopter program for Longhorn server, with customers from a cross section of industries. Gregory declined to name individual organizations using the beta.
"Beta three is a good example of how customers can benefit from an early release," Gregory said, adding improvements in manageability in Server 2008 will allow IT professionals to spend less time doing system administration and more time adding value to the business.
Gregory said Server 2008 will introduce a new distribution aimed at the 500 seat or less mid-market in addition to the standard enterprise and small business products.
In Australia for the Tech.Ed conference, Microsoft's Windows server group product manager Julius Sinkevicius said the company is in the process of solidifying the code-base and responding to customer issues, but is not planning any "surprising new features" for the final release.
Sinkevicius used to be a Microsoft customer before joining the company eight years ago and admits he "felt the customer pain".
"I did a lot of branch office deployments and saw good things coming in Server 2008," he said. "The early adopter program is going well and product evaluation has 30 customers working with Microsoft for 18 months to two years."
Microsoft also has a rapid deployment program focusing on specific scenarios like network access protection.
Highlights of Server 2008 will be a hardened core operating system with a more reliable kernel and a reduced attack surface area, and scalability improvements with support for more cores, more memory, the x64 architecture and more options for customers to scale up.
Server 2008 will also sport new management tools that integrate with Microsoft's new scripting environment, PowerShell.
"PowerShell will change how people administer services in the enterprise," Sinkevicius said. "For example, you can make changes to Exchange 2007 and a PowerShell script will be generated in the backend."
PowerShell can then be used to manage a number of servers with the same scripts. It is based on the .Net framework so people familiar with Visual Basic will be able to use PowerShell.
Sinkevicius said the community is responding well to PowerShell and partners are extending it.