Microsoft is readying a beta release of an upgrade to its Windows 2003 operating system, in addition to the service pack due out at the end of this month.
Bob Muglia, senior vice-president of the Windows Server division, said Windows 2003 R2 would be the interim version of Windows 2003 that organisations on the Software Assurance programme would receive as part of their subscription.
R2 will pave the way to Longhorn, the next full upgrade, which is due in 2006-2007, Muglia said. "The release includes a lot of things that ship separately, such as Sharepoint Services," he added.
R2 will also include the next version of Microsoft’s .net Framework for building web services-based applications, Muglia said.
A major focus of the new operating system is support for branch offices. "We are focusing on file sharing and file replication," he said, to support efficient wide area network communications between branch and head offices.
To avoid congestion on Wans, Microsoft has developed a protocol in R2 which will enable changes to files to be transmitted, rather than the whole document.
Muglia said, "If you have a 5Mbyte Powerpoint document and you only change one slide, the replication [technology in R2] would send 5,000 to 10,000 bytes across the network."
In addition to the file replication technology, R2 will lower the technical barrier required to set up and run storage area networks through a feature known as Simple Sans.
Another component is Active Directory Federated Services, used to provide single sign-on, allowing staff and business partners to access internal IT systems in a controlled way.
Once R2 ships in the second half of 2005, users will no longer be able to buy the current Windows 2003 software.