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Dogfood Report: Microsoft IT Outlines its Windows 2003 SP1 Experience

The Microsoft IT Department this month posted a public account of its efforts in deploying Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 -- a sure sign the release of the service pack is imminent.

Microsoft IT, which defines one of its primary functions as being "Microsoft's first customer," regularly releases a report on its rollout experience near or just before the Release to Manufacturing of a major Microsoft product or update.

Windows Server 2003 SP1 is a major service pack for the server operating system, bringing new security enhancements such as the Security Configuration Wizard and Windows Firewall on top of the usual service pack bug fixes. Microsoft has said SP1 will be available in the first half of 2005, and the service pack is in Release Candidate 2 testing.

The 26-page report, called "Microsoft IT SP1 Deployment Case Study," was posted on Friday. It outlines the methods and problems Microsoft ran across in deploying SP1 on its massive network, which consists of nearly 10,000 servers spanning 15 domains, with about 250 domain controllers managing the authentication of nearly 100,000 users.

According to the report, Microsoft IT ran across several installation failures in its massive upgrade. On some systems running Veritas Backup Exec as a backup agent, the backup server hung when Microsoft used Systems Management Server to deploy SP1. The problem arose because SMS didn't stop the backup agent before restarting the server. The solution was either to upgrade manually using Terminal Services or to stop the Backup service before installing SP1 using SMS and then restarting the Backup service after installing SP1. Another problem with SMS that Microsoft IT ran into arose while trying to deploy SP1 on 64-bit operating systems.

Other problems Microsoft IT reported:

  • Specific new COM permissions and computer-wide restrictions with DCOM created connectivity problems with some custom applications,
  • Installations failed because of insufficient disk space on the target system,
  • Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition, can't be updated until the hardware vendor requalifies the entire configuration. The issue is not exactly a problem as much as it is a reminder -- the Windows Datacenter Program is designed to function that way to ensure the highest reliability in Datacenter systems.

    The document is available here.

    For more ENT coverage of SP1, see the recent special report, 6 Key Security Improvements in Windows Server 2003 SP1.

  • About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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