Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Microsoft Tech Ed 2007 in Orlando, Florida, last week because my son was scheduled to have surgery (which, incidentally, never happened, but that's another story). However, I was able to cover the show virtually, and if you didn't attend either, you might be interested in the IT-related Microsoft news that came out of the show. Here's what I found out.

Windows Server 2003 SP2 on Automatic Updates
This happened parallel to Tech Ed, but I thought it was important enough that UPDATE readers would want to know. Beginning this week, Windows 2003 SP2 will begin downloading (but not automatically installing) via Automatic Updates. For environments that don't want to receive the update, a blocker tool is available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=FC145B0B-C148-445A-82BA-9B2F3AEF6E60&displaylang=en .

Windows Server 2008, Server Core, and New Web Server Role
Microsoft finally announced a new server role for the Server Core versions of Windows Server 2008--Web Server. But I should temper any excitement about this development by explaining a fact that's curiously lacking in Microsoft's public discussions about this feature: Though you can install Microsoft IIS in Server Core now, because Server Core doesn't include Microsoft .NET Framework compatibility, you won't get some high-end features, including ASP .NET. That means that the Web Server role in IIS will largely be relegated to low-end, non-dynamic sites. If you're thinking this was done as a competitive nod to Linux and Apache on low-end servers, you have the right idea. I've been told to expect a version of .NET--and ASP .NET--for Server Core in the future, though that might have to wait for the next Windows Server release.

SQL Server 2008
Not surprisingly, Microsoft SQL Server Katmai will ship as SQL Server 2008 sometime late this year or next year. Microsoft is positioning the new SQL Server version opposite the Orcas generation of Visual Studio tools, which have been delayed so often that they're now expected in late 2007. Also using the 2008 moniker, the next generation of Visual Studio will include new versions of the C# and Visual Basic (VB) languages that feature direct access to SQL Server databases through native language extensions. This is an interesting development and should further the work that Microsoft began with SQL Server 2005, when it began allowing developers to code stored procedures in languages other than T-SQL.

Forefront Stirling
Microsoft also talked up the next generation of its Forefront business security solution, code-named Stirling. For many Microsoft customers, the current-generation Forefront product is still news, but the company plans to upgrade the current versions of Forefront Client Security, Forefront Server Security, and Forefront Edge Security, and combine them with a unified management console. This unified product, Stirling, will ship in a limited beta late this year, but won't ship until 2008.

But Wait, There's More!
Although I wasn't able to get to Tech Ed, a number of Windows IT Pro contributors did, and you might want to check out Karen Forster's fun video podcasts to get a feel of what it was like at the show. http://www.windowsitpro.com/Blog/Index.cfm?BlogDate=06/5/07&DepartmentID=1054&Action=BlogIndex

Also, Windows IT Pro Magazine also announced its Best of Tech Ed winners. You can find the complete list on our Web site. http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/96256/Windows_96256.html