Microsoft ships first Server 2003 service pack

Microsoft ships first Server 2003 service pack

Microsoft Corp. late Wednesday released Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, a collection of security enhancements that aligns the server with the latest release of the Windows XP desktop client.

In addition, Microsoft also released to manufacturing the 64-bit versions of the operating system: Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 Datacenter x64 Edition, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Those operating systems run on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s AMD64 and Intel's EM64T processors.

Windows Server 2003 SP1, which is only available in a 32-bit version, is available now for download or via the Windows Update site. The x64 Editions are expected to be generally available in late April.

The first service pack for Windows Server 2003 comes two years after the initial release of the server, the first operating system that Microsoft produced under its Trustworthy Computing initiative. Service Pack 1, which was delayed numerous times, includes all the updates released since Windows Server 2003 shipped plus upgrades that align the server software with security components released in the desktop operating system Windows XP SP2, most notably the Windows Firewall. Service Pack 1, however, does not include any of Microsoft's Network Access Protection technology, which was originally slated for inclusion.

"Because this service pack has some great security functionality, I think it is important for users to take a strong look at this," says Samm DiStasio, group product manager for the Windows Server division. "And obviously for those folks that wait for the first service pack this is a queue to take a serious look at Windows Server 2003."

In addition to security improvements, Service Pack 1 also is the foundation for the x64 editions of the operating system and for Windows Server Update, codenamed R2, which will ship in the second half of 2005. R2 will include new storage management capabilities and such features such as branch server management and Active Directory Federation Services. Microsoft plans to release R2 at no charge for Software Assurance customers, but will require purchase of a new server license for those not on the software maintenance plan. The license is US$3,999 for the Enterprise Edition. Windows Server 2003 client access licenses will remain valid for R2. After R2, the next server release is Longhorn Server, slated to ship in 2007.

In Windows Server 2003 SP1, Microsoft has added a security configuration wizard, which walks users through securely configuring the server for specific roles such as file and print or as a domain controller. The role-based deployment features will be updated and expanded as a key administrative improvement for Longhorn.

The Windows Firewall also is included but is turned off by default unlike in the XP desktop version where it is on by default. The only exception is when a server is being deployed on a network, then the firewall is on by default to block all incoming connections so users can download any needed patches before going live. The firewall also can be configured network wide using the Group Policy feature of Active Directory.

The server also includes quarantine technology and auditing features.

The x64 operating systems represent the tip of a 64-bit iceberg for Microsoft. Over the next 21 months, the company plans to release at least 12 64-bit server applications and tools, including SQL Server, Exchange, Commerce Server, Microsoft Operations Manager and Virtual Server. Today, SQL Server 2000 is the only Microsoft application offered on a 64-bit platform.

Microsoft plans to announce those plans and additional 64-bit versions of its software in late April, according to company officials.

Also on Tuesday, Microsoft said Small Business Server 2003 Service Pack 1 would ship in 60 days, including all the service packs and updates for the components of that server. Those include Windows Server 2003 SP1, SharePoint Services SP1, Exchange Server 2003 SP1, SQL Server 2003 SP4 and Outlook 2003 security fixes and junk e-mail filters.

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