Windows Server 2003 'R2' Hits Beta 2

Microsoft has issued a second beta of Windows Server 2003 "R2" to testers on its BetaPlace Web site a week after sending out invitations to participate in the program. The beta broadens Microsoft's population of testers significantly as the product approaches maturation.

Windows Server 2003 R2 is an interim release of Windows Server that is rooted in Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. R2 delivers many enhancements and several new components that Microsoft says customers have asked for since the operating system was released in April of 2003.

The overall R2 feature set includes: Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM); SharePoint version 2.0; Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), also known as TrustBridge; Branch Office File Replication services (FRS); Common Logging File Systems (CLFS); File Server Migration Toolkit (FSMT); Interix and Network File System (NFS) support; MMC compatibility; Simple SAN support; and Microsoft's Storage Resource Management subsystem code-named "Corral." File and print management enhancements have also been incorporated.

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A smaller private beta of R2 began in December 2004, providing customers and partners with early access to the upgrade and a glimpse into the continued progression of Windows Server. Since that initial beta build, Microsoft has progressed to build 1939, which has been deemed Beta 2.

Testers have reported that Beta 2 improves the Setup Wizard so that Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 cannot be inadvertently installed over the new operating system. The File Server Role tool is also more comprehensive and various cosmetic changes have been made to R2's distributed file system replication (DFSR) feature.

Most significantly, Beta 2 removes the File Server Migration Toolkit, which will instead be available as an add-on around the time that R2 ships. A beta of Windows SharePoint Services Service Pack 2 (SP2) has been bundled with the new release. SharePoint now has domain renaming, improved support for domain proxies in addition to safeguards against disabling Kerberos encryption.

Information on the changes was first reported by the Microsoft Watch newsletter.

R2 is due out by year's end, but an April launch date for Beta 2 has drawn concern among industry watchers over Microsoft's ability to meet that self-imposed deadline.

"Windows Server 2003 R2 is pulling along development of other products, such as longhorn, so the release of every new beta is an important milestone for Microsoft. April beta, though, means any unexpected problems could bump R2 availability into 2006," noted Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox.

Microsoft is now in the position of going from second beta through one or more release candidates in just eight months. Delivery in that time is achievable, but questionable should there arise unforeseen problems," Wilcox added. "Anyone wondering about Longhorn progress should watch how R2 development tracks over the next five or six months."

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