Long-time readers may recall that this site got its start in the wake of an August 1998 reviewer's workshop for Windows NT 5.0, which later became known as Windows 2000. At that time, I was focused mostly on Microsoft's client software, but I was always intrigued by the server stuff and wrote a bit about Windows 2000 Server, and in fact wrote much of a book on that topic, though it wasn't until Windows Server 2003 that Microsoft's server software became a permanent fixture on this site.
Windows Server 2003 is notable to me for two reasons. First, it was among those products that were temporarily renamed to include the ".NET" nomenclature that briefly subsumed the software giant in late 2001/early 2002, and the company oddly announce three different names for the product over time: Windows .NET Server, Windows 2002 Server, and then Windows Server 2003. I can't think of another example of such a thing.
Second, as with Windows XP, the successor to Windows Server 2003 was delayed for several years because of problems with the Longhorn generation of Windows, which eventually morphed into Windows Vista (on the client) and Windows Server 2008 (on the server), causing Microsoft to once again develop its desktop and server versions of Windows in lockstep. But Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, while based on the same general generation of Windows core software, were not developed together. So while XP was extended through various Media Center and Tablet PC versions, and via the "XP Reloaded" generation of updates, Microsoft had to handle Server differently. So it created an "R2" version of Windows Server 2003 (for "release 2") to fill the gap.
Windows Server 2003 R2 was originally going to be a pretty major update, but Microsoft apparently discovered this would have undercut the impact of Windows Server 2008, which was going to be marketed as a major release itself. So R2 was trimmed back until it was basically just a couple of Feature Packs, essentially, and a fairly minor upgrade.
As with other retrospectives, the newer articles are at the top.
Windows Server 2003 R2 Review Part 2: Major New Features - December 15, 2005
Windows Server 2003 R2 is still an astonishingly full-featured upgrade and will be very valuable to many customers. What's odd is that most of the new features are pretty stealthy, and while Microsoft likes to pigeonhole product features into three easy-to-read bullet points (or pillars, as the company calls them), R2's numerous features are instead all over the map.
Windows Server 2003 R2 Review Part 1: Introduction - September 30, 2005
Eighteen months after I first heard that Microsoft would ship an "R2" (release 2) version of Windows Server 2003, that product is finally ready for primetime. Scaled back significantly from Microsoft's original plan, Windows Server 2003 R2 enters the world this fall in somewhat less impressive standing, stripped of the features that would have made it a true blockbuster. But fear not, Windows Server fans. R2 continues Microsoft's strong tradition of solid Server releases and is the first product release to embody the company's oft-stated goals of predictability for its customers.
Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions Preview - March 15, 2005
The Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions are comprised of Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Enterprise Edition, which roughly correspond to the similarly named 32-bit versions of Windows Server 2003. However, because they are based on the 64-bit x64 platform, these product editions can access far more RAM than their 32-bit brethren, placing them somewhere between Microsoft's x86- and Itanium-based Windows Server versions.
Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 Preview - February 15, 2005
Since the release of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft has developed a number of security technologies originally planned for Longhorn, codenamed Springboard, which further harden the Windows operating system, making it more resilient against entire classes of electronic attack. The first generation Springboard technologies were moved into Windows XP SP2, and now into SP1 for Windows Server 2003.
Windows Server 2003: The Road to Gold, Part 3: Testing Windows - April 28, 2003
Getting customers to adopt Windows Server 2003 immediately requires a certain level of trust with Microsoft and, for the software giant, a software testing infrastructure that goes far beyond the standard stress tests it employed in the past. And one of the key components of this new testing infrastructure and, indeed, the new Microsoft, is the company's Enterprise Engineering Center (EEC).
Brian Valentine Talks Windows Server 2003 - April 16, 2003
With Windows Server 2003 development coming to a close earlier this year, I had the chance to sit down with Brian Valentine, Senior Vice President of the Windows team at Microsoft, and discuss the company's most complex and customer-driven Windows Server version ever. Valentine, a humorous but hard-hitting individual, is responsible for virtually everything at Microsoft with the Windows name on it, as he says, and he reports directly to Group Vice President Jim Allchin.
Comparing the Windows Server 2003 Editions - April 7, 2003
Sure, Microsoft has its own table comparing the various Windows Server 2003 editions, but that version is incomplete, hard to read, and poorly organized, especially if you're interested in the features that are specific to the 64-bit editions of this product family. So here is my own comparative table, which I think you'll find to be much more readable.
Windows Server 2003: The Road to Gold, Part 2: Developing Windows - January 30, 2003
Somewhere deep in the bowels of Microsoft, virtually every day, at least one Windows product is compiled, or built, into executable code that can be tested internally by the dev, or development teams. For Windows Server 2003, this process is consummated in Building 26 on Microsoft's sprawling Redmond campus, where banks of PCs and CD duplicating machines churn almost constantly under the watchful eyes of several engineers.
Windows Server 2003: The Road to Gold, Part 1: The Early Years - January 24, 2003
During a recent trip to Microsoft's Redmond campus, I had the chance the sit down and chat with two of the most notable figures in the history of Windows, Mark Lucovsky and David Thompson. Lucovsky joined the company with the original wave of ex-Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) employees that accompanied NT architect Dave Cutler. Thompson joined Microsoft in 1990 and led an advanced development group in the company's LAN Manager project before joining the NT team later that year.
Windows Server 2003 Review (Part Two) - October 18, 2002
As the newest generation of Microsoft's family of server operating systems, Windows Server 2003 offers a myriad of small improvements over the previous generation, Windows 2000 Server. And like its predecessor, Windows Server 2003 brings with it some important choices for IT administrators, corporate decision makers, and anyone else with a stake in purchasing, deploying and supporting Microsoft server solutions.
Windows Server 2003 Review (Part One) - July 24, 2002
Windows Server has grown up dramatically since the early NT days, and it now scales up to the most scalable and advanced hardware on the planet. The product is now set for an April 2003 launch.
Windows .NET Server Beta 3 - November 12, 2001
After announcing that the Whistler Server products would be marketed as Windows 2002 Server, the company finally decided to rename the product Windows .NET Server. Because this release will include the .NET framework as well as full support for XML Web services, the company felt that it was the right time to move to the .NET naming scheme.
Windows .NET Server 2003 FAQ - Updated throughout 2001-2005
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!