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Microsoft has released a public beta for its hypervisor-based server virtualization technology known as Hyper-V, which will be included in three versions of Windows Server 2008 when it ships early next year.

The release of the Hyper-V beta is ahead of schedule. Microsoft officials said previously it would be available in the first quarter of 2008 when Windows Server 2008 was released to manufacturing.

This beta release follows hot on the heels of the availability of Windows Server 2008 Release Candidate 1 on Dec. 5.

Hyper-V remains on track to ship within 180 days of the release to manufacturing of Windows Server 2008, which Microsoft officials recently said would be ready before the Feb. 27, 2008, launch event.

Microsoft will release 8 versions of Windows Server 2008. Click here to read more.

The beta, which can be downloaded here, is currently available for the x64 Enterprise Edition in English.

“This beta release provides customers and partners with expanded features and capabilities not previously available in the September 2007 Community Technology Preview of Hyper-V, such as quick migration, high availability, Server Core role and Server Manager integration,” Bill Laing, general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Server Division, said in a statement. “As a feature of Windows Server 2008, Hyper-V is designed to provide a broad range of customers with familiar and cost-effective virtualization infrastructure software that can help reduce operating costs, increase hardware utilization, optimize infrastructure and improve server availability.”

The next version of the company’s integrated management tool, known as System Center Virtual Machine Manager, is also being developed to provide integrated management of physical and virtual environments.

With regard to licensing, Mike Neil, general manager for virtualization strategy at Microsoft, said in a blog post
that a Windows Server 2008 Standard license will grant one virtual instance, which is not the case with the current, comparable Windows Server 2003 Standard offering.

Read more here about why Hyper-V is a huge draw for Windows Server 2008.

“And in short time, the System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise is proving to be the type of progressive licensing that customers want when managing an ever-expanding virtualized infrastructure. SQL also provides an unlimited virtualzation license with SQL Server 2005 Enterprise and customers have been very happy with it. During 2008, we’ll continue to work with customers to refine our polices and also work more closely with the ISV community to help provide leadership and direction for the industry,” Neil said.

Microsoft is touting the Feb. 27 launch event for Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, which it has dubbed “Heroes happen {here},” as the largest enterprise launch in the company’s history.

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