Last week, Microsoft reached a major milestone: After five long years, the software giant finally shipped its long-awaited Windows Vista client OS. We've discussed Vista a lot here in Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and I'm sure we'll keep talking about it in the months and years to come. In the meantime, if you're eager to know more about this product, please check out my ongoing 8-part review of Vista on the SuperSite for Windows (see the URL below).

This week, however, Microsoft is looking ahead. At the European IT Forum 2006 trade show in Europe, various Microsoft executives will speak about the status of Longhorn Server, the company's upcoming version of Windows Server, and various other products and services it plans to roll out over the next 12 months. Here's what I've learned about these products.

Longhorn Server
The follow-up to Windows Server 2003 R2 will be a major Windows release with major new functionality. Microsoft told me this week that it's still on track to ship Longhorn Server Beta 3 in the first half of 2007 and the final version in the second half of the year. This isn't news, per se: Microsoft first announced this schedule in March 2006. But the fact that it's not further delaying Longhorn Server at this point is probably good news.

Windows 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2)
The next service pack for Windows 2003 (and Windows 2003 R2) will ship sometime in the first quarter of 2007, but Microsoft will announce a public release candidate (RC) version this week for anyone who wants to evaluate the product early. Windows 2003 SP2 includes only one major new feature--Windows Deployment Services (WDS), the Vista-compatible deployment tool that will replace Remote Installation Services (RIS). Otherwise, it's all critical and noncritical bug fixes, just like a traditional service pack.

Windows PowerShell
Microsoft has completed development of the Windows PowerShell (code-named Monad), an object-oriented, Microsoft .NET-based command line and scripting environment that rivals the power of UNIX command line environments, while offering a level of discoverability and ease of use unknown in such products. Windows PowerShell will be integrated with Windows after Longhorn Server, I'm told, but it will begin appearing in Microsoft products as soon as December, when Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 ships.

Virtualization We recently discussed Microsoft's virtualization plans, but to recap: Microsoft will ship its Hypervisor-based technologies for Longhorn Server within 180 days of Longhorn Server's release. A beta is now expected in the first quarter of 2007.

Forefront
Microsoft's coming generation of enterprise security products are finally beginning to appear. The most eagerly awaited is Forefront Client Security: This is Microsoft's unified malware protection platform, aimed at protecting desktop PCs, notebooks, and servers. Microsoft will show off Forefront Client Security publicly for the first time at IT Forum, but in a briefing last week, I got my first peek at the product, which includes a typical Microsoft administrative console and a Windows Defender-like client. Microsoft is shipping a public beta this week, so you can get your hands on it early. The final release is expected in the second quarter of 2007. There's a lot more to say about Forefront Client Security, but I'll reserve that for a future column.

Note, too, that Microsoft will ship other Forefront products in the months ahead. In December, we'll see Forefront Security for Exchange 2007 (formerly Antigen for Exchange) and Forefront Security for SharePoint 2007 (formerly Antigen for SharePoint). These are 2007 product-specific releases (i.e., they don't protect earlier versions of Exchange or SharePoint), but they'll include licenses for earlier versions. In mid-2007, Microsoft will also ship a unified Forefront Security Management Console (formerly Antigen Enterprise Manager).

However you slice it, things are heating up. And although it's improbable that many administrators were sitting on the edges of their seats wondering where all the new products were, it's increasingly clear that the next 12 months will be quite eventful.

Windows Vista Review
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/reviews/windows-vista-review-part-1-introduction.aspx