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While 2007 is still a long way off, Microsoft is making headway (at least on slide decks) with Longhorn Server, according to the Redmond software maker’s partners.

Before the Windows Server team can dedicate itself exclusively to Longhorn Server, it needs to roll out several other new releases, including Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1; the 64-bit and Compute Cluster versions of Windows Server 2003; and Windows Server 2003 “R2.”

That explains why Microsoft isn’t talking publicly about Longhorn Server, beyond the broad-brush overview provided by senior vice president Bob Muglia back in May.

Since that time, the plan for Longhorn Server changed fairly substantially, with Microsoft’s decision to cut the backbone WinFS file system from the product.

Despite the WinFS move—or perhaps as a result of it—Longhorn Server is still on track for 2007, Microsoft officials are telling some partners. Microsoft is expecting to deliver Longhorn Server Beta 1 in 2005, according to these partners, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Microsoft also has said next to nothing about how it plans to license Longhorn Server. What is known is that Microsoft is working to make Longhorn Server a low-footprint product. Microsoft is planning to do this by allowing users to install only those services necessary for a particular “role.”

Microsoft publicly discussed this concept of roles for the first time at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in May.

Roles are good for more than just reduced footprints. Roles also will reduce the potential Windows Server attack surface, thus shoring up system security. And they are, by nature, easier to patch, as not all patches will be needed by every kind of server, Microsoft officials are telling partners.

According to partners, Longhorn Server users will be able to order, deploy and manage each of their Longhorn Servers as any one of the following:

  • application server (Web server plus the Indigo communications subsystem)
  • media server (for Windows Media and Internet Protocol TV content)
  • dedicated SharePoint server (for document lifecycle management and collaboration)
  • Radius server (providing network-access protection)
  • rights-management server (with improved trust-delegation and smart-card support)
  • certificate-management server
  • “Anywhere Access” server, providing remote access to internal HTTP sites and other remote/shared content
  • Active Directory Federation server (for federated ID management between organizations).

    Read the full story on Microsoft Watch: Looking (Way) Ahead to Longhorn Server