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Microsoft Reveals Additions to Windows Server 2003 SP2

Microsoft has started revealing more details about new features that will arrive with its upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2003.

SP2 began a "private" beta test less than two weeks ago.

The company gave broad descriptions of the service pack at the time. However, speculation on the Web drove the development team to release further information, according to a post on the Windows Server Division Weblog this week.

SP2 will include all previously released Security Bulletin Updates, all individual hotfixes released since RTM of Windows Server 2003, fixes to increase reliability, robustness and security, and a collection of some customer requested features and features to support Windows Vista, according to the blog post.

It will update all Windows Server 2003 editions, including R2 releases of 32-bit x86 and x64 versions. The service pack will also update Itanium-based systems. Finally, it will update the x64 edition of Windows XP Professional.

Microsoft says it is being extra sensitive about making major changes in SP2 -- such changes in SP1 created problems for some IT customers. So additions in SP2 are "limited-scope," wrote Ward Ralston, product manager for Windows Server.

These include Windows Deployment Services (WDS), which is an updated and redesigned version of Remote Installation Services. WDS will be required to deploy Windows Vista. Also added is the Microsoft Management Console 3.0, which lets users add or remove snap-ins and provides improved error handling via the console.

In the area of Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, SP2 adds client support for the new Wi-Fi Alliance certification for wireless security. The update also makes it easier to connect to secure public Wi-Fi hotspots.

The Scalable Networking Pack supports new hardware that allows TCP offloading capability, which enables Windows Server 2003 to scale Windows networking to multi-gigabit link rates and across multiple CPUs. (This feature is disabled by default and can be enabled only when the specific hardware is present.)

SP2 also supports firewall "per port" authentication, which supports secure traffic between extranets and internal assets that are protected via IPsec domain isolation. (This feature is enabled by default.) It also improves SQL Server 2005 performance when it is running under intensive workloads.

Windows Server 2003 SP2 is still slated for release later this year.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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