Windows Server 2003 R2 coming soon

The long-awaited interim update should be available to customers early 2006

Microsoft has released to manufacturing a long-awaited interim update to the current version of Windows Server OS, Windows Server 2003 R2.

The update, which will be generally available to customers in about 60 days, should be 100% compatible with applications running on the current release of Windows Server 2003, says Bob Muglia, senior vice president for server and tools at Microsoft. “If you have deployed Windows 2003 today you can feel confident deploying this without a long test cycle,” he says.

Microsoft released the first preview of Windows Server 2003 R2 in August and another preview in October.

Virtualisation is a key focus of the update, which is designed to work closely with Virtual Server 2005, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and Systems Management Server (SMS) as part of Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems initiative, Muglia says.

Microsoft recently simplified virtualisation licensing for Windows Server System of which Windows Server, MOM and SMS are a part. The company no longer requires a customer to pay for inactive or stored virtual images of Windows Server System on a network. Instead, Microsoft now only charges for the virtual images of Windows Server System products actually running on a customer network.

Microsoft also allows customers to have four virtual machines running on top of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition and Windows Server Longhorn Datacentre Edition at no extra cost.

As part of its continued focus “to take a leadership role in virtualisation,” Muglia says Microsoft is offering a special promotion for Windows Server 2003 R2. Customers who purchase the enterprise edition of the update get the Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition for US$99 until June 30, 2006, he says. New Zealand pricing is expected to fall in line with US pricing in time for launch.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 is expected to be generally available in the same time frame as Windows Server 2003 R2, says Jeff Price, a senior director in the Windows Server division at Microsoft.

Windows Server 2003 R2 comes in several differently priced versions. Prices for the update will be in line with current Windows Server prices, Price says. Windows Server licences range from US$399 for a web edition to US$3,999 for the enterprise edition, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft is also updating customers on plans to release Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 R2 in the beginning of 2006. This update to Microsoft’s Windows Server is targeted at small business customers and is on schedule to be available either toward the end of the first calendar quarter or the beginning of the second calendar quarter of next year, Price says.

SBS 2003 R2 will include technology from the most recent release of SQL Server 2005, which debuted last month, he says.

The new Windows Server release also includes a key identity management technology for the company, Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), which introduces the idea of federated network identity into the OS, Muglia says.

This allows companies to securely provide distributed identification, authentication and authorisation for users across both organisational and platform boundaries.

In addition, Windows Server 2003 R2 also promises new branch-management capabilities; better Unix interoperability, through the inclusion of the Unix subsystem within Windows and a new version of the .Net framework, .Net 2.0, Muglia says.

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