Microsoft reveals Windows Server 2008 advances

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Microsoft reveals Windows Server 2008 advances

Microsoft has highlighted advances in the stability and security of its forthcoming Windows Server 2008 at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in the US.

Mark Russinovich, a technical fellow for the platform and services division at Microsoft, showed off an Automatic Space Load Randomisation (ASLR) feature that changes the memory address used by applications.

The current software often assigns fixed memory ranges to applications. An attacker could overflow that memory range to crash the application or gain control over a system.

ASLR prevents such issues by assigning random memory areas. The feature is also built into Windows Vista, but Russinovich said that ASLR was designed mainly for the server operating system.

Windows Server 2008 also offers better ways to collect crash data and report it back to Microsoft. The software giant uses the information to tackle common problems and improve overall system performance.

Currently each individual application is responsible for collecting and reporting crash data. But a serious application crash can overwhelm the reporting components, causing it to discard all error data.

Instead, Windows Server 2008 has built the crash-reporting components directly into the operating kernel. This allows administrators to see what happened with every application crash and report the data to Microsoft.

Microsoft also confirmed that Windows Server 2008 will be the company's last server software that supports 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

Any future releases, including the upcoming Small Business Server codenamed Cougar and Windows Midmarket Server codenamed Centro, will be exclusive 64-bit releases.

Both 'servers' provide bundles of operating systems and middleware such as a database and are slated for release in 2008.

Intel and AMD have been shipping 64-bit capable chips since 2004, ensuring that most current-generation systems are able to run the operating system.

Even though older servers will not be able to upgrade to the new operating system, Bill Laing, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Server division, stressed that the advances of a 64-bit-only server operating system will be worth it.

"Once we get through it and look back, we will realise all the benefits and realise it is the right thing for the industry," he said.

Next year will also see the release of Longhorn Storage Server. The R2 release of Windows Server 2008 is due to out in 2009.

Along with the roadmap, Microsoft provided attendees with an in-depth look at what can be expected in the latest version of Windows Server.

The company highlighted technical advances in security, stability and reliability with the updated OS.

"We believe that, due to the increase in consolidation and scale of servers and workloads running on individual servers, the automatic detection and recovery of hardware errors is essential," said Laing.
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