Microsoft ships Windows Server 2003 R2

The release is a free upgrade for users with Software Assurance maintenance contracts

Microsoft Corp. made Windows Server 2003 R2 generally available yesterday to users and partners and will make it available in the near future to volume licensing customers with Software Assurance maintenance contracts.

In addition, Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 along with updates to its Simple SAN storage initiative, both of which work in conjunction with R2. Microsoft is also using R2 as the launching pad for new licensing for virtualization software that took effect Dec. 1.

Windows Server 2003 R2, which ships in x64 and x86 versions, is built on Windows Server 2003 SP1 and is the first R2 release of the server operating system since Microsoft initiated a release cycle in May 2004 that called for a major operating system upgrade every four years, with a lesser "R2" release in between.

The R2 release is a free upgrade for users with Software Assurance maintenance contracts. Those without contracts must pay for a new license.

In December, Microsoft shipped the final beta of R2 (see "Microsoft releases Windows Server 2003 R2"). The first public beta was in March.

Key to the server operating system is an identity technology called Active Directory Federation Services. ADFS is one of the final pieces of Microsoft's identity management platform, and it represents the company's first implementation of the WS-Federation protocol it developed with IBM. Microsoft has positioned WS-Federation as the linchpin for integrating security infrastructures between companies.

Also part of R2 is branch-office support so servers can be remotely managed from a central location. The ISA Server SP2 is meant to enhance that capability with support for Microsoft Update and Background Intelligence Transfer Service caching, HTTP compression and application traffic prioritization.

R2 also features integration of services for Unix into the core operating system, new storage management features, support for the .Net Framework 2.0 and enhancements to the Windows SharePoint Services collaboration technology.

Under the new virtualization licensing plan, users can run four virtual machines on top of the Enterprise Edition of Windows Server 2003 R2 without any additional licensing costs beyond the base server. Users can run any Windows server version within those virtual machines, including NT and Windows 2000. Also, with every licensed copy of Windows Server 2003 R2, Enterprise Edition, that users buy, they can purchase Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition for $99 until June 30.

Microsoft also changed its Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion to include R2 Standard Edition. The promotion includes a 20% discount off open volume-licensing contracts that include the combination of Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition, Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, MOM 2005 Workgroup Edition and 50 client access licenses (CAL). Microsoft also has updated its Branch Office Infrastructure Guidance, which includes an updated architecture planning model, new templates and instruction on how to take advantage of ISA Server 2004 SP2.

Microsoft said the R2 operating system is now available through OEMs including Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.

Retail pricing for the Standard Edition is $999 (with five CALs), and the Enterprise Edition is $3,999 (with five CALS). The DataCenter version is not priced for retail sale, since it is only available from qualified OEMs.

This story, "Microsoft ships Windows Server 2003 R2" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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