The VHD Test Drive Program is now live. If you’ve heard of VMware’s appliances, then you get the idea behind this program. We’re making the Windows Server OS and a number of Microsoft server-based apps available for evaluation via a single virtual hard disk (VHD) file. So it’s all pre-built and pre-configured for you to run within Virtual Server 2005. And within 60 days, a number of other ISVs, including BEA Systems, Citrix, Quest Software, Platespin, Dell and HP will make their apps available via this program, too. Read more in a Q&A with Mike Neil.

What’s different than VMware’s program? First, there’s now a program for Windows Server-based apps. Second, this program is open to a software community of over 7,000 companies. And third, customers can receive online or other type of technical support during the eval process.

MSDN and TechNet subscribers will receive Microsoft images via their regular download mechanisms. For open evaluations, you’ll have a 30-day eval time period, which will apply to VHD images acquired from Microsoft and Microsoft partners.

Today’s program only applies to server OS and server-based apps. A similar program for Windows Vista will be available in calendar Q1 2007.