Microsoft Corporation recently released the final pre-release version of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server (Datacenter), Release Candidate 1 (RC1), to 20 of its closest partners, signaling that the product will soon be released to manufacturing (RTM). Datacenter is the final 32-bit version of Win2K, and it will scale the product family into new territory with support for up to 32 processors, four-node failover clustering, and 64 GB of RAM. Microsoft originally planned to release Datacenter within 60 days of the other Win2K products, but it's been delayed twice since then. With an expected RTM date before the end of the month, Datacenter could be in customer hands by September.

"We're very close," says Microsoft enterprise server marketing group product manager Michel Gambier. "We do not anticipate a long time between RC1 and Release to Manufacturing." Datacenter will only be sold to PC makers that are certified to make the high-end machines that can run the OS. Microsoft hopes that a stricter hardware compatibility list (HCL) and certification program will help ensure that Datacenter is more stable and reliable. Datacenter systems must support at least eight processors and pass a two-week burn-in test to ensure that they are ready for customers.

After the release of Datacenter, Microsoft can focus on the 64-bit version of Win2K, Windows 2000/64, and the next upgrade to the OS, code-named "Whistler." Windows 2000/64 is set to ship alongside Intel's 64-bit Itanium, which was recently delayed to early 2001. Whistler is due in Q3 2001, according to Microsoft