You've probably heard that Windows Server Longhorn Beat 3 is now available at Microsoft Connect. So it seems that the final could be available at the beginning of 2008 or maybe even at the end of this year. Since Longhorn is a major new Windows Server release, it certainly has many new features. Paul Thurrott discussed the 10 most important new features in a comprehensive article. I summarized them in this post.
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Role-based install and Management
Assignment of server roles is more sophisticated now. There are more roles than in Windows Server 2003, and with the new Security Configuration Wizard (SCW), you can shut down unnecessary services, block unneeded ports, and secure protocols. Paul Thurrots article lists all roles with a short description.
Powershell, Microsoft' new powerful scripting is now included in Windows Server Longhorn Beta 3 and it will also be a part of the final.
Like in Vista, Windows Firewall is bidirectional, i.e. it also supports now outbound filtering. As mentioned before, the Firewall is configured automatically based on the server role you chose.
Server Manager has now a full-blown, MMC 3.0-based user interface and not this Spartanic HTML-like dashboard as in Windows Server 2003. I never used the Server Manager in Windows Server 2003, but based on Paul's description the new version might indeed be quite useful since it unites a collection of important tools in a single place and provides further information for each feature.
Perhaps Server Core is the most revolutionary new feature (in Microsoft environments) since it is a subset of the full-blown server product without any graphical user interface. This means that you have to configure and manage Server Core on the command line. The biggest advantage is that it reduces the attack surface significantly. However, I guess this "new feature" will just cause one big yawn among Linux admins.
Bitlocker enables you to completely encrypt the system drive. In Vista, Bitlocker is mainly interesting for notebook owners, in Windows Server Longhorn however it is useful for servers located in less well physically protected environments like branch offices.
Read Only Domain Controller (RODC)
This features allows you to set the Active Directory database to read only. This way the AD replication will only be unidirectional. One scenario where RODC might prove to be useful is where branch office servers must not be able to change AD for security reasons.
The Terminal Services in Windows Server Longhorn will have quite a few new interesting features. The corresponding RDP client 6.0 is already included in Windows Vista and also available for Windows XP. The new features include Resource Redirection, Terminal Services Gateway, TS Remote Programs, Monitor Spanning, Font Smoothing, and 32 bit color. Paul also mentions that "seamless copy and paste operations between the host OS and remote sessions". I am not sure what he means by this, since copy and paste between client and server is also possible now. Is this supposed to mean that you can also exchange files this way? This is a feature which I really miss since I realized how useful it is to drag and drop files from the host to the guest in VMware Workstation.
Network Access Protection (NAP)
NAP enables you to configure security policies under which clients are allowed to establish a connection with the server. For example, clients which don't have the latest patches installed will only be able to connect in a quarantined part of the network until they are updated.
No more babysitting Setup
I like Paul's expression. It essentially means that setup requires only input at the beginning and at the end of the installation procedure of Windows Server Longhorn.
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There are certainly many more new features. You'll find me discussing them very soon. I am currently in China and my testing capabilities are somewhat limited here, but I am already burning to try the Beta 3.