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Windows Server 2003 R2 RTMs

Windows Server 2003 R2 reached its final development milestone on Tuesday when Microsoft released the product to manufacturing. The minor update to Windows Server 2003 will be generally available within 60 days.

Windows Server 2003 R2 builds on Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 by adding manageability improvements for branch office and storage scenarios and by expanding the capabilities of the Active Directory.

Microsoft had previously planned to ship R2, which it bills as a minor update to Windows Server 2003, in the second half of this year. The early December RTM means general availability isn't guaranteed until early February 2006.

“We’re making [the release cycle] more predictable with major releases about every four years with minor releases every two years in between. R2 is one of those more minor updates,” Bob Muglia, Microsoft senior vice president, said in a Webcast Tuesday.

Still, Muglia stressed that R2 makes important improvements. In the area of branch office improvements, Microsoft contends that nearly 25 percent of the installed base of x86 servers in the United States are in remote locations. As for storage improvements, Muglia said, “SAN costs are coming down [but] management costs are not.”

On the other hand, the minor nature of the update should make R2 an easy upgrade, Muglia said: “[R2] is more compatible than a service pack update [and has a] focus on the ability to seamlessly install.” R2 will only be a no-cost upgrade for customers with Software Assurance or Enterprise Agreements. Other customers will need to buy a new server license, even to take a Windows Server 2003 system up to R2. Client Access Licenses are the same for Windows Server 2003 and R2.

Windows Server 2003 R2 comes in Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions, each in a 32-bit or x64 versions. Microsoft did not produce a Web Edition for R2.

Other Versions

Microsoft provided detail on release schedules for two derivative products of Windows Server 2003 R2. Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 released to manufacturing simultaneously with the main R2 versions. General availability will be slightly further out because the file-and-print server OS is sold only as part of complete systems from OEMs such as Dell, HP and Iomega Corp. Microsoft said Windows Storage Server 2003 R2-based systems would appear in the first half of 2006.

Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2 is now officially scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2006. Microsoft said all along that SBS 2003 R2 would come out 60-90 days after the rest of R2 because of the need to create specialized wizards and perform other integration that makes the product easier for non-IT specialists to set up and use.

To keep sales of SBS 2003 rolling in the meantime, Microsoft will start a promotion March 1 that allows customers who buy SBS 2003 from an OEM or system builder to get an upgrade to the R2 edition for just the shipping and handling fee.

For more detail about R2 release, see the recent ENT special report here:
http://entmag.com/reports/article.asp?EditorialsID=94.

Stuart Johnston contributed to this report.

About the Author

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

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