Microsoft's Windows Server roadmap has been in constant flux for years, with plans for Blackcomb and Longhorn versions of Windows Server now pushed back ever further to make room for an interim Windows Server 2003 update dubbed Windows Server 2003 R2 ("release 2"). First revealed here on the SuperSite for Windows, R2 will include all of the free out-of-band updates Microsoft shipped for Windows Server 2003 since April 2003, including the Group Policy Management Console and Windows SharePoint Services.

Q: What is Windows Server 2003 R2?

A: Windows Server 2003 R2 is the next version of Windows Server.

Q: What does R2 mean?

A: "Release 2." The idea is that R2 will be a minor upgrade to Windows Server 2003.

Q: What is D2?

A: Microsoft once discussed releasing an interim XP client update concurrently with R2, and that client update was codenamed D2 (get it? R2-D2). However, the company instead decided to focus its current client marketing efforts on XP Reloaded (also see my XP Reloaded Activity Center), and to wait until Longhorn to deliver a new client version.

Q: What features will R2 include?

A: R2 is primarily designed to combine the gold version of Windows Server 2003 with Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and the various out-of-band updates, now called Feature Packs, that Microsoft has shipped since Windows 2003 was first released. According to Microsoft, these Feature Packs include:

  • Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM). A light run-time mode for Active Directory designed specifically for deploying secure, directory-based applications.

  • Automated Deployment Services (ADS). A set of Microsoft imaging tools designed to help you rapidly deploy Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 remotely onto bare-metal servers. ADS also features a remote script execution framework that helps administrators perform script-based management tasks on hundreds of servers as easily as they once did on a single server.

  • DSML Services for Windows (DSML). Enables Active Directory access using SOAP over HTTP.

  • Identity Integration Feature Pack (IIFP). Manages identities and user details across Active Directory, Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM), Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server, and Exchange Server 2003 environments.

  • Remote Control Add-on for Active Directory Users and Computers. An add-on that adds the option to right-click a computer account in the Active Directory MMC and choose Remote Control on that computer by opening a Terminal/Remote Desktop connection to that computer.

  • Services for NetWare 5.02 SP2. A cumulative set of updates and services that have been offered since the release of Services for Netware 5.01 SP 1.

  • Shadow Copy Client. A client update that lets Windows versions earlier than Windows Server 2003 take advantage of the intelligent file storage capabilities of the Shadow Copies of Shared Folders feature.

  • Windows Rights Management Services (Windows RMS). An information protection technology that works with RMS-enabled applications to help safeguard digital information from unauthorized use?both online and offline, inside and outside of the firewall.

  • Windows Rights Management Services Client. The client code for Windows RMS.

  • Windows SharePoint Services. A powerful Web-based team collaboration environment. The R2 version will include TrustBridge compatibility for sharing information with partner companies and customers.

  • Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM). Provides resource management and enables the allocation of resources among multiple applications based on business priorities.
R2 will also include the 2.0 version of the Microsoft .NET runtime engine and new, unique features, such as branch-office support.

Q: Why would Microsoft bother to issue such an update?

A: Windows Server 2003 is currently locked in time, but Microsoft has issued a wide range of Feature Packs that offer additional functionality many customers may never discover. By rolling these features into the core OS, and adding the security-oriented updates from SP1, Microsoft can offer customers a better, more integrated, more easily supportable, and more secure version of Windows Server 2003. And existing Windows Server 2003 customers can continue to download all of the post-RTM updates for free, as before.

Also, the R2 release is in keeping with Microsoft's new Windows Server roadmap. See my interview with Bob Muglia for details.

Q: What will R2 cost?

A: R2 will simply replace existing Windows Server 2003 SKUs when it's released and will therefore be the same price as Windows Server 2003. However, Software Assurance (SA) customers will get Windows Server 2003 R2 at no cost if the release ships during their subscription timeframe.

Q: When will R2 ship?

A: Microsoft hasn't determined a final ship date for R2, but it is aiming for Summer 2005.

Last updated September 17, 2004.