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Microsoft puts its server software to the test

Servers running an early version of company's Windows Server 2008 operating system are powering

Microsoft has signed up a key beta tester for the next generation of its server operating system: itself.

In recent weeks, the company has switched 79 of 80 servers that power over to Windows Server 2008, a new version of its server operating system still in testing. The company is intentionally leaving one box to run the existing server OS, Windows Server 2003, so it can compare versions.

"To deploy a new operating system and new Web server into an environment like this without compromising performance or reliability is quite a feat," Microsoft Technical Product Manager Eric Woersching said on his blog.

For those really interested in how Microsoft approached the switch, the company posted a 38-minute video with Woersching talking to two of's operations managers.

Microsoft released a third beta version of the software in April and this week offered technical beta testers an updated test version. The company has said it aims to finalize the code this year, though a formal launch of the product may not come until next year.

Web server-tracking firm Netcraft spotted the switchover earlier this week. The firm said that by its count, there are already about 2,600 sites powered by Windows Server 2008.

"Whilst some of the servers running Windows Server 2008 are at Microsoft itself, the majority are not," Netcraft said in a posting on its Web site. It noted that Microsoft has a "Go Live" program that allows Web sites to use the beta software in a production Web site.

Despite the advance start, Netcraft said it doesn't expect Windows Server 2008 to become the standard for Web sites all that quickly.

"It took several years for the installed base of Windows Server 2003 to overtake Windows 2000, and there are still some 5 million sites running on Windows 2000 even today," Netcraft said.