Microsoft will next week bring out the first interim release of its Windows Server operating system, a product which aims to improve the value of its Software Assurance licence scheme.
Windows Server 2003 R2 is an update release of the Windows Server 2003 operating system. Microsoft said the new version offers easier and more cost-effective identity and connectivity management, allowing users to control access across an extended enterprise.
Microsoft has stated that users with servers covered by Software Assurance or Enterprise Agreements will be eligible to use R2 in place of their current Windows Server software.
"After Windows Server 2003 R2 is made generally available, existing Software Assurance customers will receive it automatically when they order Windows Server 2003 software," Microsoft said.
The operating system comes in two parts: a CD containing the Windows 2003 SP1 release and a disc containing new "R2" features.
Users not on subscription licensing will be able to buy a new Windows server licence to obtain the R2 functionality, but Microsoft will not offer a discount for users upgrading from Windows 2003 who do not have a subscription-based licence.
Among the features of R2 is improved support for branch offices through a new compression technology called remote differential compression. This is designed to make it easier to move large files to and from branch offices.
There is also support for remote back-up from head offices and failover with rollback, Bob Muglia, senior vice-president Windows server division, told Computer Weekly.
Another new feature is Active Directory Federation Services, an extension to Microsoft's authentication software. Its primary objective is to help IT directors tackle the management issues of dealing with staff who have left a company but are still using valid log-in details to connect to a business partner's IT systems.
R2 will also include simplified management of storage area networks. This will make storage area network management a standard operating system feature.