If you think of Windows Server 2003 ("Whistler Server") as what would have been Windows NT Server 5.2, then you've got the right idea. Here's the first--and most comprehensive--FAQ dedicated to the next version of Windows Server anywhere! Be sure to read my Windows XP and Windows XP SP1 FAQs as well, for information about the desktop versions of Whistler.

UPDATE: This FAQ is now retired.

Q: What is Windows Server 2003?

A: Essentially, Windows Server 2003 consists of the server editions of the next version of Windows 2000. It is a minor release in some ways, but contains many new features that will make it a compelling upgrade for enterprises and small and medium businesses running Windows NT Server or Windows 2000 Server.

Q: What editions will Windows Server 2003 include?

A: Initially, Windows Server will include the following editions:

Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition
Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition
Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition
Windows Server 2003, Web Edition

Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition and Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition will ship in 64-bit versions as well. An Embedded version and Small Business Server 2003 will appear soon after Windows Server 2003 is released publicly in April 2003.

Q: So what's new in Windows Server 2003?

A: Windows Server 2003 is designed as an evolutionary step beyond Windows 2000 Server, thus it is not a major new product revision, though it boasts thousands of mostly small improvements. Windows Server 2003 has been updated to include .NET Framework 1.1 and XML Web Services; this additional functionality led Microsoft to change the name of the product to included the .NET moniker (it was originally to be simply titled Windows 2002 Server).

Windows Server 2003 also includes features to make Active Directory (AD) deployments faster and more flexible, such as a Domain Controller (DC) Upgrade Wizard that lets administrators restore DC information from removable media such as CD-ROM and DVD-RAM. AD now supports cross forest trust and authentication and authorization. There are new remote, headless and unattended management features for in-band and out of band administration, 160 new Group Policy settings, 28 new command line tools, a new Software Restriction Policies feature, and several Terminal Services enhancements. Windows Server 2003 has also been tweaked for better performance and reliability: Microsoft says that the product performs up to 50 percent faster on the same hardware as equivalent Windows 2000 Server products.

Windows Server 2003 includes Internet Information Server (IIS) 6, the latest version of Microsoft's Web server product and an important upgrade. IIS 6 has been rewritten for better security, performance and reliability and now ships in lockdown mode by default.

There are many other new features. Please see my overview of the Windows Server Beta 3 release and my review of Windows Server Release Candidate 1 (RC1).

Q: What's the difference between the 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003?

A: The 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 run only on Intel's 64-bit Itanium 2 hardware, while the other versions run on 32-bit Intel Pentium-based servers. For more information on 64-bit Windows, see my showcase Introducing Windows 64-bit Editions.

Q: Will I be able to upgrade Windows 2000 Server to Windows .NET Standard Server 2003? What about NT 4.0 Server?

A: Yes. You will be able to upgrade each edition to the corresponding new version (i.e. you can upgrade Windows 2000 Advanced Server to Windows .NET Enterprise Server). You cannot "downgrade" releases, however; for example, you cannot upgrade Windows 2000 Server to Windows .NET Web Server.

Likewise, you will be able to upgrade various NT 4.0 Server editions to .NET Server as well.

Q: This release sounds interesting. Where can I find out more about Windows Server 2003?

A: Please see my overview of the Windows Server Beta 3 release and my Windows Server Release Candidate 1 (RC1) review for more information.

Q: When will Windows Server 2003 be released?

A: Windows Server 2003 is on a radically different release schedule from the desktop version of Whistler (Windows XP). It was released to manufacturing in late March 2003 and will be launched publicly on April 24, 2003.

Q: What's up with the name Windows Server 2003? I thought it was just going to be called Windows .NET Server.

A: Microsoft has changed the name of this product several times. Most recently, in January 2003, the company decided it needed better branding for its products based on .NET, and so the name was changed from Windows .NET Server 2003 to Windows Server 2003.