Sunday, April 29, 2007

Windows Longhorn Beta 3 Review

Windows Longhorn Server Beta 3 Review

Introduction

Windows Longhorn Server Beta 3 is currently feature complete however there are still many bugs limiting its overall performance and even in some cases as with Active Directory Right Management Service the bugs were bad enough to stop the application from installing. Overall Longhorn will be an evolutionary release containing many new features however many businesses will have trouble justifying the expense of the upgrades.

For a large gallery of pictures please click here

Installation Configuration

The installation of Longhorn server is almost exactly the same as the process for Vista http://techitz.blogspot.com/ has a good amount of screen shots from the installation.

I ran the installation through a VMWare server that was running a P4 2.8G with 1.2 GB of RAM running Windows Vista. I allocated 10GB of hard disk space and 512MB of RAM to the virtual machine. This configuration was not adequate performance wise and I would not recommend running Longhorn server with less than 2GB of RAM.

Common Server tasks

Longhorn has been made completely role based meaning that the base install contains very few setup services and comes with a firewall so it looks like it has a very secure default install.

Microsoft has made a MMC plug-in called Server Manager that is basically a central area to manage both the installation and ongoing server management. I have found this to be a great addition to the system as it was very easy for me someone completely unfamiliar with all the changes in Longhorn to get everything done that I was able to previously do in Windows 2003.

The server is installed without setting an administrator password which seems rather unsecured to me. The first item that everybody should do straight after installation is set the password.

Terminal Server

The first thing that I did was set up Terminal Server so that I could connect remotely to the server from my laptop. Anyone who has had any experience with setting this up in past versions will have no problem as it is exactly the same.

Terminal Server has some great new features which look like that have been ripped directly out of Citrix products. The ability to just push one app to certain clients sound perfect but it doesn’t seam anywhere near as powerful as Citrix.

File Server

The basic file server setup is exactly that same as in the past with the dual NTFS and sharing permissions to be set on the folder that you want shared. This part has basically remained unchanged since the very early days of Windows NT. What is a new and exciting feature for companies with a mixed (UNIX,Linux) environments is the ability to directly set up NFS shares directly through the same dialogs as the standard SMB shares.

Active Directory and Management

The active directory installation and setup was very similar to Windows 2003. It actively setup the DNS at the same time making the process very easy. I had no problem adding both Windows XP and Vista computers to the domain and authenticating of it. Active Directory also has some extra features designed for integration with Unix such as NIS, which I have been unable to test but I am fairly excited about.

I was unable to get any group policy working to test any of that due to some bugs preventing its installation.

Conclusions

I have not yet spent enough time with Longhorn to make any solid conclusions, however I think this release will make quite a few very good feature improvements. There are still many very obvious bugs in the code however as a Microsoft product still in beta I expected nothing less.


Microsoft have also still not gotten out of the habit of requiring users make a ridiculous amount of reboots while setting up there system. I had to reboot the system 7 times in the first 2 hours while I was doing all my configurations. This is just stupid in this day in age where I can do almost everything on a operating system like Linux without ever needing to do a system reboot.