Public Windows Server R2 beta slightly delayed

Microsoft has slightly delayed the public second beta of Windows Server 2003 R2. The test version will be available in the next two weeks.

Microsoft has slightly delayed the public release of the second beta version of Windows Server 2003 R2. The test version will be available in the next two weeks, company officials said Tuesday.

Windows Server 2003 R2 is an update to Windows Server that is set to ship in the fourth quarter of this year. The public release of the second beta was to coincide with Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle this week, but logistics are taking more time than expected, said Samm DiStasio, a director of product management in Microsoft's Windows Server group.

The second beta was made available to select beta testers last week via Microsoft's Betaplace Web site. Following the second beta, Microsoft plans to release at least one near-final version, called a release candidate, before final release of the product. A first beta test version of Windows Server 2003 R2 was released to about 1,500 testers in December. Microsoft expanded that pool to 2,800 early this year.

Windows Server 2003 R2 is an interim release of Windows Server built on top of Windows Server 2003 SP1, released in late March. R2 will include some of the feature packs Microsoft has released since the initial Windows Server 2003 came out, as well as new storage management capabilities and features such as branch server management and Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).

"This is not just a roll-up of feature packs," DiStasio said. Instead, in R2 Microsoft is shipping new functionality that it was unable to include in Windows Server 2003 before and that it wants to get to customers before the release of Longhorn Server, DiStasio said.

For storage, R2 promises simplified SAN (storage area network) configuration, a file server quota management tool and file screener, and reporting tools. The branch server capabilities make it easier to centrally manage remote servers. ADFS lets users create trust relationships with other Active Directory users and enable authentication across corporate boundaries.

R2 is intended to fill the gap between Windows Server 2003, which shipped in May 2003, and Longhorn Server, which is set to ship in 2007. Microsoft plans to release a major server update roughly every four years and an incremental update two to two-and-a-half years after each major release.

R2 versions will be offered for several editions of Windows Server 2003, but not for the edition for Itanium-based systems. "The types of workloads that we see customers use Itanium for is eight-way and above servers running large databases. The technologies of R2 are not applicable to that usage," DiStasio said.

R2 versions are planned for Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition and Windows Small Business Server 2003, DiStasio said. Microsoft is also skipping Web Edition, because R2 adds no functionality for the Web serving and hosting tasks, he said.

The R2 update will not be free for all users, Microsoft has said. Companies that bought individual licenses for earlier Windows Server products, including Windows Server 2003, will have to buy a new license for R2. Customers who have purchased Software Assurance, Microsoft's software maintenance plan, will receive the update at no extra charge.

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