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Microsoft is making technical previews of the next version of Windows Server Standard, Hyper-V and Datacenter available to testers for early evaluation. It's not just a first test build of the client version of Windows 10 that Microsoft is making available to testers on October 1.

A first technical preview of Windows Server vNext is available for download to testers today, as well. Windows Server Standard, Hyper-V and Datacenter technical previews are available on MSDN for download. (Thanks to Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Aidan Finn for the list of available versions.)

Microsoft officials haven't yet said what the final name of the next server release will be. It could be Windows Server 2015, if Microsoft sticks with past naming conventions. Or they could do Windows Server 10, I guess...

Understanding the Next Version of Windows Server

The Cloud & Enterprise team is taking a new approach with today's tech preview release, according to a blog post. The Windows Server and System Center Technical Previews are available from MSDN (requires a subscription) or Technet (if you still have it) so go and have a look. You Can also Download Windows Server Evaluations in this location.

"We typically provide this release only to a small number of customers, but this time we are providing broad access for those who want to start the journey early. If you want to download the bits or try them on Azure, then by all means go for it. But do know that this is an early release, and many of the features and scenarios are still in development. As such, this build is not intended for production environments, labs, nor full evaluations," company officials said.

There's an MSDN page listing the new features for the Windows Server Next versions.

Among some of the new features in the server previews:

  • Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS): New features that enable configuration of ADFS to authenticate users stored in Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directories.
  • Remote Desktop Services: Improvements based on customer requests. We added support for OpenGL and OpenCL applications, and added MultiPoint Services as a new role in Windows Server.
  • Storage quality of service: Update enables users to create storage QoS policies on a Scale-Out File Server and assign them to one or more virtual disks on Hyper-V virtual machines. Storage Replica is a new feature that enables synchronous replication between servers for disaster recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster for high availability.
  • A Hyper-V or Scale-out File Server failover cluster: Can now easily be upgraded without any downtime or need to build a new cluster with nodes that are running Windows Server Technical Preview.
  • Web Application Proxy: Now supports pre-authentication for applications using the HTTP Basic protocol, wildcards in external URLS of applications, redirection from HTTP to HTTPS, use of pass-through authentication with HTTP applications, publishing of Remote Desktop Gateway apps, a new debug log, propagation of client IP addresses to backend applications, and improvements to the Administrator console.
  • Windows PowerShell 5.0: Includes new features, such as support for developing with classes, and new security features that extend its use, improve its usability, and allow users to control and manage Windows-based environments more easily and comprehensively.
  • Networking: New feature that enables Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) for the Windows Server Gateway. In addition, the DNS Server role includes enhanced logging and a new policy based feature for DNS response management.

Microsoft is still mulling how best to provide updates to the server bits as the company moves forward. On the client side, Microsoft is expected to make regular automatic updates to Windows 10 starting with the technical preview and after the product moves beyond the test phase. (Enterprise customers will be able to postpone these updates using WSUS and other tools, however.)

Customers want favor stability and predictability while in other scenarios they want access to the latest and greatest technologies as fast as possible. We’ll have more specifics in the coming months, but you can expect Microsoft to deliver the best of both worlds: options for speed and agility, plus options for stability and durability.

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