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Windows Server 2003 R2 Goes Gold

Microsoft has released to manufacturing Windows Server 2003 R2, a long-awaited update of its market-leading server software, with general public availability over the next two months, the company said Tuesday.

The server software package introduces several new areas of functionality, including improved virtualization support in tandem with Virtual Server 2005 R2 (also released in trial form for download Tuesday); new identity and access management tools; support for WS-Management, a web services specification developed by Microsoft in tandem with such companies as Intel, Dell, and Sun Microsystems; and more cross-platform support for Unix.

The package also includes new storage management tools, and Microsoft has also approved the release of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2. OEMs such as Dell, HP, Iomega Corp., LeftHand Networks Inc. and Tacit Networks Inc. plan to release network attached storage (NAS) products bundled with Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 in the first half of 2006.

"Windows Server 2003 R2 builds on the proven reliability and security of Windows Server 2003 and introduces new functionality and benefits in key workloads and scenarios," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of server and tools at Microsoft, in a Tuesday webcast. "R2 presents our customers with an array of new ways to reduce cost and complexity, boost end-user productivity, and increase the strategic value of their IT systems."

One area that Microsoft particularly highlighted with the Windows Server 2003 R2 release is branch-office and small business management, seeking a greater share of a lucrative SMB market that market analysts such as IDC have pegged as the sweet spot for server revenue growth. The company's announcement stressed its effort to speed up data replication and employ improved compression techniques to boost branch-office productivity and lessen their reliance on centralized IT shops. Microsoft plans to release an update of Windows Small Business Server 2003 in the second quarter of 2006.

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