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Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014 Hit Preview Stage

Public preview versions of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014 are now available, Microsoft announced Tuesday during the kickoff of TechEd Europe, taking place in Madrid.

Evaluation copies can be accessed here. The finished products are expected to appear by the "end of this year," according to Microsoft.

Analyst and consulting firm Gartner Inc. is projecting that Windows 8.1, which isn't currently available as a preview yet, will appear in August or September as a release-to-manufacturing version, so possibly the new preview products could see the light of day about that time. A preview of Windows 8.1, formerly code-named "Windows Blue," is expected to be available at the start of Microsoft's Build developer event on Wednesday, but it hasn't been announced as yet.

Microsoft is offering four previews of Windows Server 2012 R2, including one for IT professionals, one for those tapping Microsoft's cloud-based Windows Azure, a third one for developers and lastly a preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, which is Microsoft's updated server offering for small-to-medium businesses. Windows Server 2012 R2 will have a number of storage, virtualization and networking improvements, plus Hyper-V improvements, including Linux and Unix virtual machine support. A Microsoft datasheet on Windows Server 2012, available here, indicates that there will be three Windows Server 2012 R2 products to come: Datacenter,Standard (for "physical or minimally virtualized environments") and Essentials (for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices).

The two SQL Server 2014 preview releases available Tuesday are described as "community technology previews." That nomenclature suggests that Microsoft is still refining the requirements and design of the software per this Microsoft definition of a CTP. Microsoft in the past has used the term "customer preview" to signify a beta software release, which may be a bit more refined than a CTP, but it's a murky distinction. SQL Server 2014 is notable for using the in-memory, online transaction processing technology formerly code-named "Hekaton," which might be used for near real-time inventory management capabilities. SQL Server 2014 also is better integrated to support Windows Azure and Windows Server 2012 hybrid scenarios. SQL Server 2014 will be released as a product a little later than Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, according to Microsoft officials.

Microsoft released a preview of System Center 2012 R2 on Tuesday, which supports mobile device management scenarios through a combination of System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager and the new Windows Intune management service. The new System Center components also figure large in Microsoft's management scenarios for Linux- and Unix-based virtual machines in mixed computing environments.

Windows Intune is available as of Tuesday as a 30-day trial for up to 25 users, although it is not clear which software build is being offered. Microsoft had previously said at TechEd North America that a new Windows Intune service update will be available by year's end supporting new management capabilities for mobile devices in conjunction with System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager. However, Microsoft had stressed at that time that a beta of Windows Intune to test these new capabilities would not be available.

Also, available for testing is the Windows Azure Pack, which installs across Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. The Windows Azure Pack enables some Windows Azure multitenant and scalability capabilities, including high-density Web hosting.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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