Hot on the heels of Microsoft's recent releases of a security-oriented service pack for Windows Server 2003 and the 64-bit version of the server software, the company quietly released a beta version of the next full Windows Server upgrade on Friday.
The test version of Windows Server 2003 R2, which is built atop the code from the SP1 release of last month and supports both 64-bit and x86 systems, sports streamlined versions of several management systems, including branch and remote server management, access management and storage management. Microsoft has also integrated improved Unix interoperability into the R2 beta, reconfiguring the Network File System to allow Windows and Unix computers to pass files back and forth despite their disparate naming functions -- functions that were previously only available in add-on packs. R2-based servers can now synchronize password control across to Unix systems and provide Unix-based users with secure, single-logon access to Windows resources.
Microsoft has also upgraded identity and access management across security boundaries with Active Directory Federation Services, which the company says provides infrastructure and libraries that ease building a secure, manageable Web services system for Web single-sign-on and federated authentication with business partners. ADFS is written to the WS-Federation specification and will support various security token types, including Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) and Kerberos authentication.
With R2, the company has also turned its attention to improved storage management with an embedded storage manager for storage-area networks (SANs) that eases provisioning storage on one or more storage subsystems. The software also includes a Storage Resource Manager that allows administrators to place quotas on volumes, actively screen files and folders, and generate comprehensive storage reports.
In addition, Microsoft has updated its SharePoint services, which offer support for IP-bound virtual servers and advanced extranet configurations and extend the functionality to systems running ASP.NET 2.0 (Whidbey) and 64-bit Windows machines, and has provided a simplified hardware management architecture for server management based more closely on the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) standard.