Microsoft Readying Windows Server 2003 R2 Beta

Microsoft is readying its first public beta of Windows Server 2003 R2, with the full release to be available in the second half of the year, the company said Tuesday

April 27, 2005

3 Min Read
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Microsoft is readying its first public beta of Windows Server 2003 R2, with the full release to be available in the second half of the year, the company said Tuesday at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.

The upgrade to Windows Server 2003 not only includes Service Pack 1, which adds new security capabilities, but also features new technologies in the areas of branch office management; identity and access management; storage management; and Unix interoperability, said Samm DiStasio, director of the Windows Server Product Management Group at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

Once R2 is available, which is expected in a couple of weeks, the beta can be accessed at the following link:

DiStasio that while some observers viewed R2 as simply a wrap-up of technologies that otherwise would have been released in individual service packs, the release is actually an integrated upgrade with new technology that adds real value to Windows Server 2003.

"It's not a roll-up," DiStasio said. "There are some significant [new] scenarios here. While we did roll in some of the feature packs, we also brought new value to [the product]."For example, branch office enhancements include new centralized file replication and printer management technologies that make it easier to duplicate and print files between different branch office locations, he said.

In addition, the new Unix interoperability functionality in R2 adds directly to the OS a set of technologies previously available separately as add-on Unix services. "We've incorporated most of that technology into the core operating system--things like NFS, name services in Unix so you can do single sign-on," DiStasio said.

R2 also includes Active Directory Federation Services, a set of Web services that makes it easier for a company and its trusted partners to share and add users to applications.

"When people want to extend access to folks outside the company today, you build an extranet, try to put stuff outside the firewall and are encumbered by managing a whole new set of IDs," DiStasio said. "With [this technology], my directory service is going to trust your directory service, and you get a really nice collaborative infrastructure." Solution providers said anything Microsoft can do to ease customer concerns on security is a plus. "Security is the issue du jour, even in small and medium-sized companies," said Bob Whiton, CEO of Net Solutions, a Tustin, Calif. solution provider.

At the same time several partners said Microsoft has confused the market with an array of patches, service packs and new product versions, and made it difficult to distinguish between them.Said one: Windows Server 2003 "SP 1 should have been a roll-up of security [tweaks] but it was a feature pack. SP 1 had a lot of implications people weren't prepared for." By Microsoft's own definition, service packs should not break existing applications, but that has not been the case with eitehr Windows 2003 SP1 or Windows XP SP2, several partners said.

Brad Tuffendsam, practice director for Infrastructure Services at Ascentium, Bellevue, Wash., praised Microsoft for bringing forward major enhancements that had been promised for the delayed Longhorn release. "There's a lot of stuff in [R2] about expanding Kerberos and rights management. R2 addresses applications that can be accessed outside the normal corporate boundaries," he noted.

"It's fine for major architectural changes to take five years or more, but security can't wait. The sooner they push those improvements out in different releases, the better," Tuffendsam added.

Richard Warren, enterprise solution architect for Microlink LLC, a Vienna, Va.-based solution provider, said this aspect of R2 has benefits for certain use-case scenarios. "R2 matters if you are trying to run a lot of desktops and manage your head count doing it, and it matters if you're running multiple identities on one box versus a single-use box," Warren said.

Warren added that some of R2's technologies were to show up in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, which is not scheduled for release until the end of next year."They were pulled forward [into Windows 2003] and God knows Microsoft's had enough time to do that," Warren said.

Editor's note: this story was updated Wednesday morning with additional partner comment.

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this report.

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