Updated Windows Server 2003 R2 will boost branch ops

Microsoft Corp. Wednesday did some housekeeping by releasing two planned software updates, including a second release of the Windows Server 2003 OS.

The company made Windows Server 2003 R2 available with enhancements for branch offices, as well as released the second service pack for Internet and Security Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004, the company’s branch office firewall and VPN (virtual private network) product.

New features in R2 include a new centralized file replication and printer management technologies that make it easier to duplicate and print files between different branch office locations, according to the company. In addition, R2 includes a set of technologies, previously available only as an add-on feature, that enable Windows Server to interoperate more effectively with Unix-based systems.

Another enhancement to Windows Server 2003 R2 is Active Directory Federation Services, a set of Web services that makes it easier for a company and its trusted partners to share and add users to applications, according to Microsoft.

Windows Server 2003 R2 is free of charge to current Windows Server customers who have an enterprise agreement with Microsoft or take part in the Microsoft Software Assurance program, according to the company. Those that don’t or new users must purchase new licenses for the software.

ISA Server 2004 SP 2, also available Wednesday, includes the ability to cache and serve content downloaded with Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), a file transfer service used by Microsoft Windows Update to download updates and service packs. BITS caching provides a more efficient rollout of updates and fixes by transferring data in small portions and reassembling the data at the destination, according to Microsoft.

The ISA Server update also allows the server to compress HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) content and serve that from its Web cache to clients, according to Microsoft. Additionally, SP2 includes technology that can prioritize traffic from certain applications to help customers ensure the most critical applications in the network run smoothly.

Customers can download ISA Server 2004 SP 2 at the MSDN Download Center, which they can access through a link from www.microsoft.com/isaserver. It is also available through Microsoft Update for automated distribution.

Microsoft also updated one previously announced product promotion and made another available, both of them linked to the R2 release.

Starting now, midmarket customers can purchase three copies of Windows Server 2003 R2 as part of a promotion announced at the company’s partner conference in July. In addition to the OS licenses, customers also get one copy of Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, one copy of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition, and 50 client access licenses each for Windows Server and Exchange Server at a 20 percent discount for about US$6,400.

In addition, a discount for Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 unveiled last year is now available when customers purchase one license of Windows Server 2003 R2. Until June 30, customers can purchase Virtual Server, Microsoft’s virtualization platform, for $99.

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