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Windows Server 2003 R2 Goes Gold

Customers are a little closer to having a shiny new CD with Windows Server 2003 R2 in their hands.

Microsoft released its updated server software to manufacturing Tuesday, six months after public beta tests began on the updated technology.

A public beta of the software was released in May showing off the new additions to the software and giving customers a chance to see what's been improved.

The full product update comes in Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions in both 32- and 64-bit versions. A fourth edition, Server 2003 R2 Web, is solely devoted to Web-based applications, pages and Web services.

The small- to medium-sized business (SMB) version of the software, Small Business Server 2003 R2, is expected in the second quarter of 2006.

Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 was also released to manufacturing today.

For those who want to get their hands on the software now, Microsoft is making an evaluation copy available later this week for download. Users can upgrade the evaluation copy, which features a 180-day license, to the finalized version when it's released within the next 60 days.

Jeff Price, a senior director in Microsoft's Windows server division, said the changes from the public beta to the final release weren't as noticeable as what you'd find with a major software upgrade. Since the code for R2 is based entirely on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, released in February, the process was much more streamlined.

"Typically a lot of the testing we get done in a major release is application compatibility testing, so we'll get reports from customers we need to address there," he said. "But our internal testing shows that R2, because it is the same code base, is 100 percent compatible with the service pack 1 product. That, of course, accelerated testing and deployment quite a bit."

Redmond was looking at five major themes to define Windows Server 2003 R2: Web platform technologies, virtualization, data storage and remote-office management.

Microsoft is keen on promoting its virtualization efforts, the ability to run multiple instances of an application on one server, and continues that push with Server 2003 R2.

The company is offering customers Virtual Server 2005 for $99 if they buy it in conjunction with the enterprise edition of the server software.

The company eased its licensing terms around virtualization in October, stating R2 enterprise edition with users with Virtual Server 2005 would be able to run four instances of the software on one machine.

To help out on the hardware front, and push its software onto other platforms, Microsoft has baked WS-Management support into R2.

With this support, other server tools also incorporating the specification -- such as Sun Microsystems or HP can manage, and be managed by, Windows Server 2003 R2.

Other enhancements in Windows Server 2003 R2 include the ability to move Unix-based tools and applications to the Windows platform without having to rewrite code; Active Directory Federation Services, so users and business partners can sign in once and access different applications and services within the corporate network; and new storage and remote office management enhancements

Windows Server 2003 R2 pricing remains the same as its SP1 predecessor. The Standard edition starts at $999 for five client access licenses ($1,199 for 10 CALs) while the enterprise edition runs $3,999 with 25 CALs.

The datacenter edition is only available through original equipment manufacturers (OEM) (define). The Web edition is also only available through Microsoft partners and runs $399.

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