SEATTLE--Windows Vista and its server sibling are starting to go their separate ways. But come next year, the two will be reunited.
On Tuesday, Microsoft released the Beta 2 versions of both Vista and Windows Server "Longhorn." From here on, though, Vista will get mainly bug fixes and performance improvements, as Microsoft aims to finish it up this year and have it on store shelves in January. Microsoft is at an earlier stage with Longhorn Server. It is working to add a few features and to send out a third beta in the first half of next year, before a final release in the second half of 2007.
Despite the time gap, Microsoft still wants to keep the two code bases common, Bob Muglia, head of Microsoft's server and tools division, said in an interview.
"The plan is unlike (Windows) XP and (Windows Server) 2003, where we had separate code bases. We'll have one code base," Muglia said. "That will all converge next fall, roughly...when Longhorn Server ships."
As the Vista team patches bugs in the desktop operating system, those changes will be folded into the Server code. Meanwhile, the changes to the Server code will be added back into Vista in a service pack for the desktop operating system, currently slated for delivery next fall.
The plan is not that new. Microsoft once hoped that Windows XP--then known as Whistler--and its server counterpart would share a common code base. Instead, the company took longer to do the server update, in part to revamp its security approach, and eventually shipped it as Windows Server 2003.
As for Longhorn Server, Muglia said the key features, such as Network Access Protection, are already in the test versions.
"The big stuff is all in," Muglia said. "It's small stuff now."
Meanwhile, Microsoft is also working on adding features to Windows Server outside of the full releases. On Tuesday, it said it was ready with a free add-on called the "Scalable Networking Pack."
The new feature lets servers take networking tasks that have been handled by the main processor and shifted onto the networking card, provided the servers have a new kind of networking card just now coming into the market.
That's important, Microsoft Senior Product Manager Ian Hameroff said, because it takes about 1GHz of processing power to process a gigabit of traffic. "What we're allowing is for that to be offloaded," Hameroff said. That frees the CPU for other application-related tasks."
The networking pack is available as a free download now, and will also be built into Longhorn Server. Networking start-up Alacritech sued Microsoft over its planned network off-loading features. However, the two companies reached a settlement in July, in which the software giant licensed technology from Alacritech.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on adding improved virtualization technology, known as hypervisor, to its server software. That feature will come not with Longhorn Server, but as an add-on that Muglia said will ship within six months of the server release.