Microsoft Details Server 2003 SP2 Plans

With beta testing underway for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, which also is designed for Windows XP x64 edition, Microsoft is providing a bit more details about the impending upgrade. Windows Server program manager Ward Ralston says SP2 will be much less painful than SP1.

"I know SP1 to Windows Server 2003 made some pretty big changes to the way we do security and it introduced a cycle of application testing and some compatibility issues….this was, however, a necessary evil needed to address server security," Ralston wrote on his team's blog.

Now that the groundwork has been laid with SP1, Microsoft is planning a more conventional service pack for SP2. It will consist of all security updates, all individual hotfixes released to customers and fixes to reduce top customer support issues.

SP2 will also include some additions to support Windows Vista, Microsoft's next Windows client release due out in early 2007. Some new features will make the cut as well, although Ralston calls them "limited" in scope.

On that list is an updated and redesigned version of Remote Installation Services called Windows Deployment Services, Microsoft Management Console 3.0, support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) version 2, per-port firewall rules, and improved IPSEC filtering.

MSConfig, the popular Windows configuration tool used by administrators and more tech savvy consumers, will additionally be bolstered in SP2. Ralston says Microsoft has added "an additional tab which provides a single launching point for common support tools that will ease the discoverability of common diagnostic functionality."

The service pack is slated for release later this year, although Microsoft has not given a firm timetable. SP2 will update all versions of Windows Server 2003, including 32-bit, 64-bit and Itanium releases, along with Windows Server 2003 R2.

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